Is the eastern cougar truly extinct?

It's a story that most North Country folks have heard, and it's one that most of us truly want to believe. We want to believe it is true because it makes this place seem wilder, mysterious, and possibly even mythical.

Often, it is a secretive tale about a secretive beast, and yet it is talked about all across the Adirondacks from barrooms to board rooms, and from all points between. We want to believe the story, even though it often involves rumors about secret releases, green group conspiracies, missing radio collars, black-ops coverups and other such nonsense.

It's often at this point that the X-Files gets lost the woods; which is the reason why the NYSDEC had to issue a press release last summer to clear the air about a number of internet hoaxs and continued rumors about pictures of dead cougars and other suspicious evidences.

Unfortunately, most storytellers don't realize that no one would be happier than the DEC, to learn that cougars have returned to the Adirondacks.

Actual proof of a cat would be proof of a truly wild habitate, and that would be a mighty big feather to place on the green Stetsons in Ray Brook.

For many, the presence of large predators such as wolves, bears and mountain lions validates the state of our wilderness. Even if the big cats are really out there, we are still brave enough to travel the woods. If we dare to deny they exist; we are in some odd fashion, denying our own toughness. We are wimps!

Fortunately, we'll no longer have to worry about it. Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the eastern cougar to be extinct. The Ghost Cat can now be removed from the endangered species list.

And if the federal government says it's true...what a relief! We can again sleep peacefully among the big pines and the rolling hills.

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