Panther is extinct, not endangered, regulators say

In this file photo, an adult male Florida panther growls as he leaves his shipping container to enter his new home at Big Cypress National Preserve, Fla. (AP Photo/Gregory Smith, File)

The panther is about to lose its pant: federal regulators want to remove the elusive eastern cougar from the Endangered Species List, saying the native animal doesn’t exist in the region anymore.

That’s despite a pack of reported sightings.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed the de-listing Tuesday. Public comment will be taken until Aug. 17 at regulations.gov.

The service declared the cougar extinct in 2011, a first step toward de-listing the cougar, more often called a panther. De-listing means removing the animal from a lengthy list of endangered or threatened species that the agency has to monitor. The Florida panther is considered a different subspecies.

In South Carolina, state wildlife officers regularly get reports of cougar sightings, especially in the Lowcountry swamps. But none have been confirmed, and no suitable South Carolina habitats were found in a 2005 study.

“We recognize that people have seen cougars in the wild in the Eastern U.S.,” said Martin Miller, FWS region chief of endangered species. The sightings are believed to be roaming Florida or Western cougars.

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