The Great North Woods continue to become a little less wild, following another announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
In March 2011, the agency removed federal protection for the eastern cougar, after extensive reviews revealed no evidence of an existing breeding population in the eastern United States.
Researchers believe the Eastern cougar subspecies has been extinct since a trapper in Somerset County, Maine, killed the last confirmed eastern mountain lion in 1938.
More recently, on May 5, 2011, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed a new rule to eliminate federal protection for wolves throughout the central and eastern U.S.
According to the USFWS proposal, the special regulation for the Eastern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) was based on research indicating the gray wolf is no longer considered a native species in the northeast. The agency now recognizes the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) as the only wolf native to the northeast, and the agency will evaluate it "for possible protection under the Act in the near future."
The special regulation for the Eastern Distinct Population Segment (DPS) applies to wolves in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine.
The persecution of wolves by human is the primary reason for the decline of wolves across North America, Humans are the largest single cause of wolf mortality and the only cause that can significantly affect wolf populations at recovery levels.
Studies indicate that wolves require remote wild areas, with a wide range of prey animals. In the northeast, whitetail deer have historically filled this role. However, in a study conducted in Minnesota, researchers determined that road density also plays a significant role in the ability of wolves to establish a presence.
The study discovered that wolves require a road density that does not exceed .9 miles of highway per square mile of land, the current road density of the Adirondack Park. Road density is not an indicator of potential road kill, rather it is an indication of the ease at which humans can access wolf habitat to harass, trap or shoot them.