Predators missing from our food web
Northern pine snake.
Drawing by Tate T, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.
Northern pine snake (Pituophis melanoleucus melanoleucus)
- Status: Missing
- Last seen in park: Unknown; possibly 2000
- Species story: Like the red-cockaded woodpecker and fox squirrel, the northern pine snake depended on fire for an open forest understory habitat, but disappeared when fire was suppressed. Now that the park has reintroduced controlled burns, the pine snake’s habitat may return.
Drawing by Mandy H, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.
Fisher (Martes pennanti)
- Status: Locally extinct
- Last seen in park: late 1800s
- Species story: In the Smokies, these relatives of weasels were trapped for their silky fur until they disappeared. About 30 years ago, the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources reintroduced them to that state, and while the population has been spreading, it’s unknown if they will return to the Smoky Mountains.
Drawing by Chelsea A, Robbinsville High School, North Carolina.
Eastern cougar (Puma concolor couguar)
- Status: Declared extinct by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011
- Last seen in park: 1920s
- Species story: The Eastern cougar once roamed across the Southeast. As a top predator, it controlled deer, raccoon, and other animal populations. Cougars were the most widely distributed animal in the Americas, living from southern Canada all the way to Argentina in South America. Eastern cougars disappeared as people killed them and cities expanded into cougar habitat.