The last known pure-bred tarpan died in The tarpan was native to the steppes of central Asia. It enabled our ancestors to travel quickly over huge distances, and they harnessed the strength and tenacity of these animals to do tasks that previously required several men. What were they, where did they come from, and how did they live? It is widely accepted that the ancestor of the majority of modern horses was an animal known as the tarpan.
This sturdy horse was only around 1. However, what the tarpan lacked in size it more than made up for in resilience and stamina. Being an animal of the Asian steppes, it was able to survive in the very harsh conditions that sometimes sweep over these treeless plains.
In the wintertime, its grayish brown coat grew long to give it added protection from the cold. In some of the more northern reaches of its range, the tarpan may even have been white. It is possible that these could have been white tarpan that met their end in a bog, only to become entombed in ice as the earth entered another of its many glaciations. Like other horses, the tarpan was a grazer and a herd animal. By all accounts, the tarpan was a very spirited animal and quite capable of defending itself by kicking and biting. Horses are shown in many cave paintings throughout Europe, and it is very likely that the tarpan and its relatives were simply hunted before an ancient innovator thought it would be a good idea to try to tame them.
Hunting these animals on the steppes must have been very hard as horses have excellent smell and hearing and can sense the approach of danger way before they can see it. When the domestication breakthrough came, hunting was made much easier on the back of a tame tarpan, and the species began its slow, inexorable slide toward extinction. Hunting was not the main problem facing this species. As people became aware of the usefulness of the tarpan, more and more would have been taken from the wild to supplement the young that were reared from the tame individuals.
Unfortunately for the tarpan, it could still mate with these domesticated horses, and its unique genes were diluted. This continued until the middle of the nineteenth century, when it was realized that purebred tarpans were very rare. In , the last wild tarpan was killed, but some had been taken into captivity years before and were often kept on the private estates of noblemen.
These captive animals dwindled due to neglect, and the last one died in Poland in around When the tarpan became extinct,. In a vain attempt to resurrect the tarpan, the Polish government collected together a number of ponies that were considered to have tarpan characteristics. These were taken from their peasant owners and sent to forest reserves. This was a pointless exercise as the ponies they chose were a product of millennia of selective breeding and they were no more purebred tarpan than a German Shepherd dog is a purebred wolf.
The same German scientists who thought it would be possible to resurrect the aurochs turned their attention to recreating the tarpan by selective breeding. This notion sorely lacked merit because no one knew or knows to this day what constitutes the tarpan on a genetic level. Through our desire to produce an animal that was of use to us, we took the tarpan and molded it to our own needs, in the process producing something quite distinct. The tarpan our ancestors knew is no longer with us in a form they would recognize, but its genes are there in the cell of almost every horse.
Extinction almost claimed this horse, too, but captive specimens allowed a breeding and reintroduction program, which has returned small numbers of these animals to the wild. Further Reading: Jansen, T. Forster, M. Levine, H. Oelke, M. Hurles, C. Renfrew, J. Weber, and O. The last quagga, a captive specimen, died in Quagga—A subspecies of the plains zebra, the quagga retains some degree of striping. The quagga, like the dodo, is one of the more familiar animals that has gone extinct in recent times.
In Victorian times, it was the trend among naturalists to describe new species wherever and whenever possible, and the zebra of Africa received a good degree of attention from these early taxonomists. With the advent of molecular biology and DNA sequencing, it rapidly became clear that there was little validity in what the gentleman scholars of the previous age had proposed.
Very recently, scientists managed to isolate some DNA from the mounted skins of the quagga that can be found in several museums around the world. It turned out that the quagga was very likely a subspecies of the plains zebra and not a distinct species at all. Aside from these details, quaggas lived like the plains zebras that can still be seen in sub-Saharan Africa today.
They lived in great herds and could often be found grazing with wildebeest or hartebeest and ostriches. A lion would have. As the Boers moved inland, they exterminated these giant herds of ungulates, primarily for food but also for their high-quality skins. Quaggas were also captured live and put to various uses. Any intruder, be it a lion or a rustler, was treated to the whinnying alarm of the quagga and most probably attacked by this tenacious horse.
Some quaggas also found their way to Europe, where they ended up in the big zoos. The powers that be at London Zoo thought a quagga breeding program would be an excellent idea; however, this quickly came unstuck when the lone stallion lost its temper and bashed itself to death against the wall of its enclosure.
Just how they were coaxed into pulling a carriage full of genteel Londoners is unknown, but they were probably gelded beforehand. The Boers, and the British before them, were quick in taming the verdant lands of South Africa, lands that abounded in game and opportunity. The native tribes of South Africa fought these invaders but were forced to abandon their prime territories.
The Europeans mercilessly destroyed the abundant South African wildlife, not only for food and skins, but also for recreation and to make way for agriculture. The quagga was one of the casualties of this onslaught. In the s, great herds of quaggas and other animals roamed South Africa, but only 30 years later, in , the last wild quagga was shot dead. The last quagga, a female, died in Artis Magistra Zoo in Amsterdam in Today, the remnants of this South African wildlife can only be seen in national parks.
Although their numbers have declined, zebras can still be seen in large numbers in sub-Saharan national parks. Such an exercise is quite pointless, and the resources needed for such programs would be much better spent protecting the surviving zebras. Perhaps a population of the plains zebra was completely isolated in South Africa and started to evolve along a unique course. This is the very beginnings of speciation, the process where one species becomes two over thousands or millions of years. After less than , years, the quagga had almost lost the distinctive coat.
Further Reading: Leonard, J. Rohland, S. Glaberman, R. Fleischer, A. Caccone, and M. Warrah—The Falkland Island fox, or warrah, was the only large land mammal on the windswept archipelago in the South Atlantic. The last known warrah was killed in This carnivore was known only from the Falkland Islands.
Ravaged by incessant winds and terrible winter storms, these islands are a very. Although the Falklands are a welcome refuge for marine animals such as penguins, seals, and sea lions, very few land animals have managed to make a living on this stark, oceanic outpost. An adult warrah was about twice as big as a red fox 1. Its tail, unlike that of a wolf, was thickly furred, and like a fox, it excavated dens in the sandy soil of the coastal dunes. Apart from mice, the land of the Falkland Islands supports precious little prey that sustained the warrah, but it is possible that insect larvae and pupae featured prominently in its diet.
Although the interior of the Falkland Islands is rather impoverished when it comes to carnivore food, the coast is a bounteous source of nourishment at certain times of the year. To reach these good supplies of food, the warrah traveled along well-worn paths that must have been made by generations of the animals accessing their feeding grounds via the shortest possible route.
Although the southern spring and summer was a time of abundance for the warrah, the autumn and winter were probably very tough, and some accounts from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries report that the living animals looked starved and very thin. Regardless of its wintertime depravations, the warrah, in the absence of competition, appears to have been a successful species that was quite numerous on the two main islands of the Falklands group.
This monopoly came to an end with the arrival of humans. Initially, visitors to the Falkland Islands were afraid of the warrah as it would wade into the water to meet an approaching boat. This was not an act of aggression, but an act of curiosity. The warrah had probably never seen humans and had therefore never learned to be afraid of them, an unfortunate fact that contributed to the extinction of this interesting dog. The sheep thrived on the islands, and as humanity tightened its grip on the Falklands, the warrah was seen as a menace that had to be exterminated. Like all dogs, the warrah was an opportunistic feeder, and it undoubtedly fed on the introduced sheep and lambs that nibbled the Falkland Island grass, but islanders, in their ignorance, believed the warrah was a vampire that killed sheep and lambs to suck their blood, only resorting to meat eating in times of desperation.
In an attempt to quell the populace, the colonial government of the Falkland Islands ordered a bounty on the warrah, and fur hunters soon moved in to collect handsome rewards for delivering the pelts of dead animals. The Falkland Islands, with a land area roughly the size of Connecticut, could never have supported huge numbers of warrah.
Even before the human invasion, the warrah. Because the warrah was so very tame, hunting was a breeze, and all the hunter needed was a piece of meat and a knife. He held out the piece of meat to tempt the animal and stabbed it with the knife when it came within range. Amazingly, a live warrah found itself in London Zoo in after being transported on a ship with a menagerie of other exotic animals, most of which perished during the journey.
This warrah, far from home, survived for several years in the zoo, but it was one of the last of its species. Back in the South Atlantic, the onslaught of the sheep farmers and the hunters was too much for the poor warrah, and in , the last known animal was killed at Shallow Bay in the Hill Cove Canyon. Did it evolve on the Falkland Islands, surviving as a relic from the time before the last glaciation, when the islands were forested and home to a number of other land animals? Were the ancestors of the warrah brought to the islands by South American Indians as pets? Did the ancestors of the warrah walk to the Falkland Islands thousands of years ago when sea levels were much lower?
Unfortunately, the answers to these questions died with the warrah, and the one-time presence of this canine in the South Atlantic remains a tantalizing zoological mystery. Further Reading: Alderton, D. Foxes, Wolves, and Wild Dogs of the World. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, The last pair of great auks was killed in , although there was a later sighting of the bird in on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Great Auk—The largest of the auks was killed off by overzealous hunting. Often, these birds were giants of their kind, and the great auk, as its name suggests, was no exception.
Like the other auk species, the great auk had glossy black plumage on its back and head, while its underside was white. In front of each eye was a white patch of plumage. It was built for swimming, and on land it was a very cumbersome animal, waddling around in the same way as the larger penguin species. As its feet were positioned. The ungainliness of the great auk on land was undoubtedly one of its downfalls because it could be caught with such ease.
Birds, no matter how well adapted they are to an aquatic existence, are always tied to the land. They need to return to land to lay their eggs and rear their young. During the breeding season, the great auks made use of low-lying islands to mate and lay their eggs.
The female great auk only laid one egg per season, directly onto the bare rock. The egg was quite a specimen, weighing around g. Every egg in the breeding colony was patterned slightly differently so that parents could easily recognize their own developing youngster. Life for the great auk was tough, and it got a whole lot tougher when they caught the attention of humans. Europeans soon realized the great auk represented a treasure trove of oil, meat, and feathers.
Their awkwardness on land coupled with an obligation to form dense breeding colonies on low-lying islands made them easy pickings for Atlantic mariners. Sailors armed with clubs would land on the breeding islands and run amok through the nesting birds, dispatching them with blows to the head.
There are stories of great auks being herded up the gangplanks of waiting ships and being driven into crudely constructed stone pens to make the slaughter even easier. Once killed, the birds were sometimes doused in boiling water to ease the removal of their feathers. The plucked bodies were then skinned and processed for their oil and meat.
The slaughter was relentless, and as breeding pairs of the great auk could only produce one egg per year, the species was doomed. This last pair of great auks was killed while brooding an egg, and this, the last egg laid by the great auk, was smashed. Lonely individuals of the great auk may have scoured the North Atlantic looking for others of their kind as one was apparently spotted around the Grand Banks in , but their searches were in vain, and they, too, eventually went the same way as the rest of their species.
All of them, except the great auk, became extinct several thousand years ago. However, complete skeletons of the great auk are very rare, with only a few known to exist. The eyes and the internal organs from the two last known great auks were removed and preserved in formaldehyde. These poignant reminders of the extinction of this fascinating animal can be seen in the Zoological Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark. Further Reading: Olson, S. Swift, and C. The Great Auk. New York: Abrams, Extinction Insight: The Great American Interchange Following their discovery by Europeans in , North America and South America have been collectively known as the Americas or the New World, two immense landmasses that had been close geographical neighbors for time immemorial.
All of the landmasses on earth were once assembled in a superlandmass, Pangea. Over millions of years, Pangea fragmented, and all of the continents in the modern Southern Hemisphere were grouped as a southern supercontinent, Gondwanaland, while the continents of the Northern Hemisphere formed the northern supercontinent, Laurasia. Although South America faced North America across the equator, there was no physical connection between the two landmasses.
Great American Interchange—The emergence of a land bridge between North and South America allowed animals to migrate between these two landmasses. Several types of North American mammal moved into South America, but relatively few of the South American mammals made it to the north and thrived. North America retained a connection to the other landmasses by way of the intermittent land bridges that formed between its northwestern corner and the eastern tip of Asia.
South America, on the other hand, has been completely isolated during its history for immense stretches of time. The animal inhabitants of South America evolved in isolation to form a fauna that was amazing and unique. The mammals were particularly interesting, and many groups were known only from South America. This is how rodents and monkeys are thought to have reached South America between 25 and 31 million years ago. Much later, at around 7 million years ago, some representatives of the group of mammals that includes raccoons and coatis managed to reach South America from North America using stepping stones of islands that were appearing between the two landmasses.
These islands were the highest reaches of modern-day Central America, which was being uplifted from below the waves. The isolation of South America and the uniqueness of its fauna was upset completely about 3 million years ago when the gradual geological upheaval forced the Isthmus of Panama out of the ocean completely, directly connecting the two landmasses.
This was the beginning of the Great American Interchange and over the next few thousand years, animals and plants used the corridor of dry land to move between North America and South America. Many species of mammal we associate with South America actually originated in North America, for example, the llamas and tapirs. Other migrants from the north included horses; cats such as the cougar and jaguar; dogs; bears; and several types of rodent, to name but a few animals.
Some South American mammals managed to cross the land bridge into North America, but many of these are now extinct, including the glyptodonts and giant ground sloths. The only surviving North American mammals to have their origins in South America are the Virginia opossum, the nine-banded armadillo, and the North American porcupine.
For reasons that are not completely understood, the South American species did not fare well when it came to invading the north, while the North American species thrived in the South American lands. The only ancient South American animals to make any lasting impression in North America were the ones with some sort of protection. The extinct glyptodonts, like the armadillos, were protected with a tough carapace, while the ground sloths had powerful claws, thick skin, and great size on their side. Apart from mammals, one other group of South American animals, the terror birds, managed to survive in North America for a while, but it is possible that they crossed by island hopping before the two landmasses became connected by a corridor of land.
The animals that moved into South America from the north thrived, and most of them are still around today, even though this continent has been massively altered by humans. The giant, native animals that were unique to this continent are all extinct, and all that we have as reminders of their existence are dry bones and a few pieces of parched hide.
Although the original South American giants are all gone, their smaller relatives live on. Today, more than 80 species of marsupial survive in South America, but they are mostly tree-dwelling animals with a liking for insects and fruit. Many hundreds of thousands of years after the Great American Interchange reached its peak, humans moved into the Americas via the Bering land bridge, although there is increasing evidence that early seafarers may have reached these lands a long time before people walked across.
Regardless of how humans got to North America, they also moved south into South America. Early crossings may have been made using boats, but the land bridge used by the animals of the New World for millennia was certainly used by humans as well. It is not precisely known when the elephant bird became extinct, but it may have hung on until the eighteenth or nineteenth century. The elephant bird was found only on the island of Madagascar. Elephant birds were among the heaviest birds that have ever existed. Following the extinction of the last dinosaurs 65 million years ago, the mighty reptiles that had dominated the earth for more than million years, the long overshadowed birds and mammals evolved into a great variety of new species, some of which gave rise to giants like the elephant bird.
It was about 3 m tall and probably weighed about kg the giant moa of New Zealand was actually taller but was way behind the elephant bird in terms of bulk— moa are discussed later in this chapter. Grounded, these birds went on to become animals that were bound to the land. Their skeletons show that they had very powerful legs and that they plodded around Madagascar on their big feet. Some people have suggested that certain Madagascan plants that are very rare today depended on the elephant birds for the dispersal of their seeds. The digestive system of these large birds was ideally suited to breaking down the tough outer skins of these seeds.
Some were digested, but others passed through the bird intact and in a state of readiness for germination. The remains of the elephant bird that have been found to date allow us to build up a picture of how this extinct animal lived. Some have been found intact, and they are gigantic—the largest single cells that have ever existed. They are about three times bigger than the largest dinosaur eggs, with a circumference of about 1 m and a length of more than 30 cm. The number of elephant bird species that once inhabited Madagascar is a bone of contention among experts, but it is possible that Madagascar supported several species of these large birds.
On their island, surrounded by abundant food and few animals to fear, especially when fully grown, the elephant birds were a successful group of animals. Then, around years ago, their easy existence was overturned as humans from Africa, Indonesia, and the islands around Australia reached this isolated land of unique natural treasures. Humans by themselves are one thing, but thousands of years ago, humans did not travel alone—they took their domestic animals with them. The humans, on the other hand, saw the elephant birds as a bounteous supply of food.
They had evolved in the absence of predation and, as a result, probably reproduced very slowly. Other introduced animals, such as chickens, may have harbored diseases to which these giant birds had never been exposed. With no natural immunity to these pathogens, epidemics may have ravaged the populations of elephant birds, which were already under pressure from hunting and egg predation. The actual extinction timeline for the elephant birds is sketchy, but many experts suppose that the last of these great birds died out before The means at our disposal for the aging of ancient material are constantly improving, and some recent estimates move the disappearance of these birds into the nineteenth century.
It is possible that some stragglers managed to survive until recent times, but we can be certain that no elephant birds survive today. Although the elephant birds are all extinct, Madagascar is still home to many other unique animals—the most notable of these being the lemurs. In the thirteenth century, the great explorer Marco Polo recounted tales of a huge bird of prey that could carry an elephant in its huge talons. Known as the roc or rukh, the stories of this bird convinced sailors who visited Madagascar and saw eggs of the elephant birds that the island was home to this giant raptor.
These stories describe the elephant birds as gentle giants. Although these accounts are liable to exaggeration, it gives us some idea of what the living elephant bird may have been like. Further Reading: Cooper, A. Lalueza-Fox, S. Anderson, A. Rambaut, and J. Benstead, eds.
The Natural History of Madagascar. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, It became extinct in the year , although it is possible that the species may have persisted for a few more years. In , the St. Peter, captained by Vitus Bering, departed from Kamchatka. On board was a year-old German. Steller also happened to be a physician and a very keen naturalist. His journey on the ship through the Bering Sea would be a remarkable one, on which he would make many zoological discoveries.
It was very closely related to the dugongs and manatees, the unusual marine animals found in tropical rivers, estuaries, and shallow marine habitats around the world, but it was very much larger. Adults could grow to around 8 m, and the great bulk of the animal suggests weight in excess of 4, kg—possibly over 8, kg. They were gentle animals that apparently spent their time grazing on kelp—leaving great mounds of the seaweed washed up on the shore—and snoozing. Peter, who were shipwrecked on Bering Island. Not only were these huge marine animals slow moving and gentle, but they also lived in family groups and appear to have been very curious.
Steller observed them investigating the small boats of men who carried guns and spears to shoot and stab them. Often this was not the case, and the moribund animal would simply die and sink. When the survivors of the St. Not only did they eat the meat and fat of this animal,. The skin was processed to make a range of leather goods. What Steller discovered were the last populations of this impressive animal, which had survived in a remote, inhospitable area. Whatever the state of the population of this animal when it was discovered, we know that by , 27 years after it was described by Steller, it was extinct.
Unfortunately, it is highly unlikely that such a large animal, which spent so much of its time at the surface, has escaped detection in an increasingly crowded world. Twenty-seventy years is an amazingly short amount of time for an animal to be wiped out, and it shows just how relentless humans can be in their extermination of other creatures.
The spectacled cormorant, a large marine bird with a distinct unwillingness to take to the wing, was last seen around Peter was forced to seek refuge from the atrocious conditions in the Bering Sea on what became known as Bering Island. Vitus Bering died of scurvy on this island, along with 28 of his crew. The survivors, with Steller among them, saw out the winter; they constructed a new vessel from the remains of the St. Peter and returned to Kamchatka. Back on the mainland, Steller spent the next two years exploring the vast peninsula of Kamchatka, documenting its animals, plants, and geology.
He was eventually requested to return to St. Petersburg but died of an unknown fever on his way back. Further Reading: Anderson, P. The dodo is generally considered to have gone extinct in , but any records of it after the s have to be treated with caution. The dodo was only found on the island of Mauritius, km to the east of Madagascar. The dodo Dodo—Although the dodo is one of the is the animal that springs to mind when we think most well known recently extinct animals, of extinction.
Often portrayed as a stupid, bumvery few remains of this animal survive to bling giant of a bird, the dodo was actually a very this day. Renata Cunha interesting animal that was perfectly adapted to its island habitat. Fully grown specimens were probably around 25 kg in weight and as tall as 1 m. Sailors described these nests as being a bed of grass, onto which a single egg was laid. The female incubated the egg herself and tended the youngster when it hatched. Sailors who saw the living birds said the young dodo made a call like a young goose. Apart from small pieces of information, we know very little about the behavior of the dodo.
We have no idea if they lived in social. What we do know is that they were hopelessly ill adapted to deal with human disturbance. Hunting the dodo was said to be a very easy exercise. Dodos had never seen a human, and as a result, they had not learned to be afraid. It is said they would waddle up to a club-wielding sailor only to be dispatched with one quick swipe. Hunting obviously hit the dodos hard—their size and small clutches suggests that they were long-lived, slow-breeding birds, which was not a problem in the absence of predators, but as soon as humans and their associated animals entered the equation, extinction was inevitable.
Seafarers who visited Mauritius brought with them a menagerie of animals, including dogs, pigs, rats, cats, and even monkeys. These animals disturbed the nesting dodos and ate the lonesome eggs.
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With this combination of hunting, nest disturbance, and egg predation, the dodo was doomed. Sadly, this bird is also extinct. There are a few complete skeletons, a few disjointed bones, and a head and foot that still have tissue attached. Apparently, by , the specimen was in quite a sorry state, and it was said that the curator ordered it to be burned.
This recklessness is now thought to be a myth and the burning was, in fact, a desperate attempt by museum workers to salvage what they could from a badly disintegrating specimen, leaving us with the remnants we have today. At least we have a good idea of what the dodo and Rodrigues solitaire looked like—unfortunately, the same cannot be said for many of the other animals with which these birds shared their home.
Precious little information is available on these animals. Further Reading: Cheke, A. Aurochs—The aurochs was the ancestor of most modern cattle, albeit significantly larger than most modern breeds. Both males and females feature prominently in ancient cave art. Cis Van Vuure. The last known aurochs died in Most of the cattle breeds we know today are descended from the huge prehistoric cattle known as aurochs.
These large animals roamed the woods and glades of Europe and Asia for thousands of years, until the last of the species, a female, died in Poland in As the aurochs only disappeared in quite recent times, there are lots of accounts of what it looked like and how it behaved. The males were very large animals—1. Both the males and females had impressive horns that curved forward and slightly inward, and the male in particular looked like a typical but very powerfully built bull. A bull was said to be black with a pale stripe along his spine, while the female was more reddish brown. Aurochs—This old drawing, by an unknown artist, clearly shows the distinctive horns of the aurochs.
According to historic accounts, aurochs lived in family groups that were made up of females, calves, and young bulls. As the bulls grew older, they formed groups of their own, and the large, mature bulls were solitary, only mixing with others of their kind during the breeding season. Like other types of cattle, the aurochs were completely herbivorous and lived on a diet of grasses, leaves, fruits such as acorns, and even the bark of trees and bushes during the harsh winter months. A large animal with an aggressive nature would not have been easy to look after, so our ancestors selectively bred these animals to make them more docile.
Selective breeding was also used to produce types of cattle that could yield copious amounts of milk. Humans domesticated many other animals apart from the aurochs, and it was this change from a hunter-gatherer existence to an agricultural one that spelled the end for the aurochs. Over centuries and millennia, humans changed the habitats in which the aurochs lived. They cut down the forests to plant crops or to make room for their domesticated animals to graze and browse. The large size and formidable temperament of these animals made them very popular hunting targets for food and sport.
Habitat loss, competition with their domesticated relatives, and hunting all contributed to the gradual disappearance of the aurochs. Unfortunately, what is now Poland fell into turbulent times, and many kings. During this era, the protection of the aurochs was much less of a priority, and the last two populations got smaller and smaller through neglect and hunting.
This was too little too late, and by , the species was extinct—the forests of central Europe would no longer hear the bellow of an aurochs bull. For much of their existence, the earth was going through ice ages and intervening warm periods, and as the aurochs were not adapted to survive in intensely cold environments, their range probably increased as the ice sheets withdrew and contracted as the ice sheets extended south.
Females reach sexual maturity between one-and-a-half to three years of age. They typically average one litter every two to three years throughout their reproductive lives,  though the period can be as short as one year. Chronic stress can result in low reproductive rates when in captivity as well as in the field. Only females are involved in parenting. Litter size is between one and six cubs; typically two.
Caves and other alcoves that offer protection are used as litter dens. Born blind, cubs are completely dependent on their mother at first, and begin to be weaned at around three months of age. As they grow, they begin to go out on forays with their mother, first visiting kill sites, and after six months beginning to hunt small prey on their own. Young adults leave their mother to attempt to establish their own territories at around two years of age and sometimes earlier; males tend to leave sooner.
One study has shown high mortality amongst cougars that travel farthest from the maternal range, often due to conflicts with other cougars intraspecific competition.
Life expectancy in the wild is reported at eight to 13 years, and probably averages eight to 10; a female of at least 18 years was reported killed by hunters on Vancouver Island. A male North American cougar P. Feline immunodeficiency virus , an endemic HIV-like virus in cats, is well-adapted to the cougar. Like almost all cats, the cougar is a mostly solitary animal. Only mothers and kittens live in groups, with adults meeting rarely.
While generally loners, cougars will reciprocally share kills with one another and seem to organize themselves into small communities defined by the territories of dominant males. Cats within these areas socialize more frequently with each other than with outsiders. Ranges of females may overlap slightly with each other. Scrape marks, urine , and feces are used to mark territory and attract mates. Males may scrape together a small pile of leaves and grasses and then urinate on it as a way of marking territory.
Home range sizes and overall cougar abundance depend on terrain, vegetation, and prey abundance. Because males disperse farther than females and compete more directly for mates and territory, they are more likely to be involved in conflict. Where a juvenile fails to leave his maternal range, for example, he may be killed by his father. The cougar has the largest range of any wild land animal in the Americas.
Its range spans degrees of latitude , from northern Yukon in Canada to the southern Andes. Its wide distribution stems from its adaptability to virtually every habitat type; it is found in all forest types, as well as in lowland and mountainous deserts. The cougar prefers habitats that include precipitous canyons, escarpments, rim rocks, and dense brush,  but can also live in open areas with little vegetation.
The cougar was extirpated across nearly all of its eastern North American range with the exception of Florida in the two centuries after European colonization , and faced grave threats elsewhere. It currently ranges across most western American states, the Canadian provinces of Alberta , Saskatchewan and British Columbia , and the Canadian territory of Yukon. There have been widely debated reports of possible recolonization of eastern North America. There have been unconfirmed sightings in Elliotsville Plantation, Maine north of Monson and as early as in New Hampshire.
All four confirmed cougar kills in Iowa since involved males. On April 14, , police fatally shot a cougar on the north side of Chicago , Illinois. In Tennessee , no confirmed sightings had been made since the early s. The first confirmed sighting in a century was made on September 20, , in Obion county in the north-western corner of West Tennessee. Six days later, and about 35 miles to the southeast, a hair sample was found in Carroll County. DNA analysis revealed that it was from a female genetically similar to South Dakota cougars. Since then there have been at least eight additional confirmed sightings in the state; all were immediately east of the Tennessee River in Middle Tennessee : initially in Humphreys county and on September 4, , further south in Wayne county.
The cougar's total breeding population is estimated at less than 50, by the IUCN, with a declining trend. In Oregon , a healthy population of 5, was reported in , exceeding a target of 3, With the increase of human development and infrastructure growth in California, the North American Cougar populations are becoming more isolated from one another. Aside from humans, no species preys upon mature cougars in the wild, although conflicts with other predators or scavengers occur.
Of the large predators in Yellowstone National Park — the grizzly bear , the black bear , the gray wolf , and the cougar — the massive grizzly bear appears dominant, often but not always able to drive a gray wolf pack, a black bear, and a cougar off their kills.
In general, cougars are subordinate to black bears when it comes to kills and when bears are most active, the cats take prey more frequently and spend less time feeding on each kill. Unlike several subordinate predators from other ecosystems, cougars do not appear to take advantage of spatial or temporal refuges to avoid their competitors.
The gray wolf and the cougar compete more directly for prey, mostly in winter. Packs of wolves can steal cougars' kills and occasionally kill the cat. One report describes a large pack of 7 to 11 wolves killing a female cougar and her kittens. Preliminary research in Yellowstone , for instance, has shown displacement of the cougar by wolves. Both species are capable of killing mid-sized predators, such as bobcats and coyotes , and tend to suppress their numbers.
In the southern portion of its range, the cougar and jaguar share overlapping territory. As with any predator at or near the top of its food chain , the cougar impacts the population of prey species. Predation by cougars has been linked to changes in the species mix of deer in a region. For example, a study in British Columbia observed that the population of mule deer, a favored cougar prey, was declining while the population of the less frequently preyed-upon white-tailed deer was increasing.
In the southern part of South America, the puma is a top level predator that has controlled the population of guanaco and other species since prehistoric times. A pumapard is a hybrid animal resulting from a union between a puma and a leopard.
Wildlife Publications, Alaska Department of Fish and Game
Whether born to a female puma mated to a male leopard or to a male puma mated to a female leopard, pumapards inherit a form of dwarfism. Those reported grew to only half the size of the parents. They have a puma-like long body proportional to the limbs, but nevertheless shorter than either parent , but short legs. The coat is variously described as sandy, tawny or greyish with brown, chestnut or "faded" rosettes. In the United States east of the Mississippi River , the only unequivocally known cougar population is the Florida panther.
With the taxonomic uncertainty about its existence as a subspecies as well as the possibility of eastward migration of cougars from the western range, the subject remains open. This uncertainty has been recognized by Canadian authorities. The Canadian federal agency called Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada rates its current data as "insufficient" to draw conclusions regarding the eastern cougar's survival and its website says that "despite many sightings in the past two decades from eastern Canada, there are insufficient data to evaluate the taxonomy or assign a status to this cougar.
The cougar is also protected across much of the rest of its range. The cat had no reported legal protection in Ecuador , El Salvador, and Guyana. Although cougars are protected from all hunting in the Yukon ; hunting is permitted in every U. Texas is the only U.
In Texas, cougars are listed as nuisance wildlife and any person holding a hunting or a trapping permit can kill a cougar regardless of the season, number killed, sex or age of the animal. Conservation work in Texas is the effort of a non-profit organization, Balanced Ecology Inc. The cougar cannot be legally killed without a permit in California except under very specific circumstances, such as when a cougar is in act of pursuing livestock or domestic animals, or is declared a threat to public safety.
Conservation threats to the species include persecution as a pest animal, environmental degradation and habitat fragmentation , and depletion of their prey base. Wildlife corridors and sufficient range areas are critical to the sustainability of cougar populations. As few as one to four new animals entering a population per decade markedly increases persistence, highlighting the importance of habitat corridors.
Due to the expanding human population , cougar ranges increasingly overlap with areas inhabited by humans.
Attacks on humans are very rare, as cougar prey recognition is a learned behavior and they do not generally recognize humans as prey. Attacks are most frequent during late spring and summer, when juvenile cougars leave their mothers and search for new territory. Between and , in North America there were 53 reported, confirmed attacks on humans, resulting in 48 nonfatal injuries and 10 deaths of humans the total is greater than 53 because some attacks had more than one victim.
Within North America, the distribution of attacks is not uniform. The heavily populated state of California has seen a dozen attacks since after just three from to , including three fatalities. As with many predators, a cougar may attack if cornered, if a fleeing human stimulates their instinct to chase, or if a person " plays dead ".
Standing still may cause the cougar to consider a person easy prey. Fighting back with sticks and rocks, or even bare hands, is often effective in persuading an attacking cougar to disengage. When cougars do attack, they usually employ their characteristic neck bite, attempting to position their teeth between the vertebrae and into the spinal cord.
Neck, head, and spinal injuries are common and sometimes fatal. The same study showed the highest proportion of attacks to have occurred in British Columbia , particularly on Vancouver Island where cougar populations are especially dense. There have sometimes been incidents of pet cougars mauling people.
Research on new wildlife collars may be able to reduce human-animal conflicts by predicting when and where predatory animals hunt. This may save the lives of humans, pets, and livestock as well as the lives of these large predatory mammals that are important to the balance of ecosystems. Pumas in the Southern cone of America — often called Argentine cougars by North Americans — are reputed to be extremely reluctant to attack man; in legend, they defended people against jaguars. Hudson, citing anecdotal evidence from hunters, claimed that pumas were positively inhibited from attacking people, even in self-defense.
In fact, attacks on humans, although exceedingly rare, have occurred. An early, authenticated, non-fatal case occurred near Lake Viedma , Patagonia in when a female mauled the Argentine scientist Francisco P. Moreno ; Moreno afterwards showed the scars to Theodore Roosevelt. In this instance, however, Moreno had been wearing a guanaco -hide poncho round his neck and head as protection against the cold;  in Patagonia the guanaco is the puma's chief prey animal.
Forensic analysis found specimens of the child's hair and clothing fibers in the animal's stomach. Despite prohibitory signs, coatis are hand-fed by tourists in the park, causing unnatural approximation between cougars and humans. This particular puma had been raised in captivity and released into the wild. Claw incisions, which severed a jugular vein, indicated that the attacker was a felid; differential diagnosis ruled out other possible perpetrators. Fatal attacks by other carnivores such as feral dogs can be misattributed to pumas without appropriate forensic knowledge.
During the early years of ranching, cougars were considered on par with wolves in destructiveness. According to figures in Texas in , 86 calves 0. In both reports, sheep were the most frequently attacked. Some instances of surplus killing have resulted in the deaths of 20 sheep in one attack. Coyotes also typically bite the throat but the work of a cougar is generally clean, while bites inflicted by coyotes and dogs leave ragged edges. The size of the tooth puncture marks also helps distinguish kills made by cougars from those made by smaller predators.
Remedial hunting appears to have the paradoxical effect of increased livestock predation and complaints of human-puma conflicts. In a study the most important predictor of puma problems were remedial hunting of puma the previous year. Remedial hunting enables younger males to enter the former territories of the older animals.
The grace and power of the cougar have been widely admired in the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Inca city of Cusco is reported to have been designed in the shape of a cougar, and the animal also gave its name to both Inca regions and people. The Moche people represented the puma often in their ceramics.
To the Apache and Walapai of Arizona , the wail of the cougar was a harbinger of death. In professional hockey, the cougar was used by two mid-western teams and one northwestern team. The Detroit Cougars were actually related to the Victoria Cougars of the Western Hockey League , which had won the Stanley Cup in , in that when the Victoria Cougars, which had operated as the Aristocrats from to and as the Cougars from , disbanded in , the owners of the newly formed Detroit club purchased the rights to many of the players of the Victoria club and retained the Cougar nickname.
The University of Vermont also uses the mascot, but uses the term "catamount" instead of cougar, as was traditional in the region where the school is located. The University of Pittsburgh in western Pennsylvania also uses the cougar as its sports mascot and for many other clubs and organizations, but also uses the locally preferred name, "panther", corresponding to nearby geographic features Panther Hollow and Panther Hollow Lake which were named that by , 24 years before the University selected the name for its teams.
Many high schools also use the cougar as their sports team mascot. The Carolina Panthers of the National Football League have a black cat on their uniforms as opposed to a brownish- or tawny-coloured cat so it is most often presumed to represent a black panther , the black melanistic phase of either the jaguar , which actually only lived in the far southwestern United States not the southeastern United States where Carolina is located, or the leopard of Africa and Asia. Most sports team named the "Wildcats" use a logo similar to a bobcat, or in some cases in Canada, a lynx, names which are often used for sports teams in their own right.
By contrast, Wildcat Lager Beer brewed by Labatt, has always shown a picture of a cougar on its label. Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses. Home FAQ Contact. Cougar Wikipedia open wikipedia design. For other uses, see Cougar disambiguation and Mountain lion disambiguation. Large cat of the family Felidae native to the Americas. Temporal range: 0.
Conservation status. Linnaeus , . Front paw print of a cougar. Although cougars somewhat resemble the domestic cat , they are about the same size as an adult human. North American cougar cub at Malibu Springs. Main article: Pumapard. See also: List of fatal cougar attacks in North America. Play media. Cats portal Mammals portal. In Wilson, D. M eds. Johns Hopkins University Press. Retrieved March 26, Merriam-Webster, Incorporated Retrieved February 24, San Diego Zoo. Agustin; Franklin, William L. Bibcode : Oecol.. US National Park Service. Flagstaff, AZ, ch.
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