All Hail the Lion
The Nittany lion has been used as a mascot at Penn State University for over 100 years, but for most of that time, the species from which the mascot was derived has likely been extinct. The lion is thought to be a representation of the Eastern Cougar (Felis concolor couguar), a subspecies of Puma that was previously native to the Northeastern United States. In 2018, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officially removed the Eastern Cougar from the Endangered Species List, noting that “data from researchers, 21 states and Canadian provinces across the subspecies’ former eastern North American range indicate the eastern cougar likely disappeared forever at least 70 years ago.” The extinction can likely be attributed to widespread deforestation and hunting during the last half of the 19th century. Folklorist Henry W. Shoemaker illustrates the efforts that went into hunting “panthers” and wolves during this time in central Pennsylvania, in his volume, Extinct Pennsylvania Animals.
Henry W. Shoemaker
Extinct Pennsylvania Animals
Altoona, PA: Altoona Tribune Publishing Co.
CO2 PPM in 1917-1919: 302-303