Although it is possible, it is unlikely that they will naturally return to NJ. They are still stories worth knowing because they help us understand how species disappear from a geographic area.
The Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ reports that five extirpated species are the cougar (Felis concolor), Eastern pearlshell (Margaritifera margaritifera), North Atlantic gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus), Rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) and Trout-perch (Percopsis omiscomaycus).
|Puma By Saguaro National Park - Flickr, CC BY 2.0, Link|
The cougar is also known as the mountain lion or puma. It is one of the most wide-ranging big cats in the world, although it's hard to imagine it once roaming the Garden State.
Though the cougar once ranged from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific and as far north as Canada and as far south as southern South America, today it does not live east of the Mississippi River except for a small population in southern Florida and a few stray individuals.
Cougars are carnivores who hunt alone and feed on small mammals such as rabbits and squirrels to larger animals such as deer and livestock such as sheep or young cattle.
They began to disappear in the late 1700’s partially due to habitat loss as towns and cities grew. Cougars need a large area for their hunting. Also, because of fear and to stop livestock losses, rewards were offered for cougar kills and the remaining animals were eliminated by the early 1800s.