Officially, no population of cougars, pumas, etc. exists in the Eastern U.S., except for the handful of cats hanging on in Florida. That position, though, is getting harder to defend, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking another look. Two new examples, as posted at the handy news site Cryptomundo:
A cougar in New York, with an unmistakable photo (although it's not clear the photo comes out of the same event as the sightings in the news article quoted):
A cougar killed near the state line between Georgia and Alabama:
It's often hard to be definitive about whether a given cat has spent time in captivity, even when you have the body. It's impossible when all you have is a photo. Either way, I think the evidence keeps mounting that a few cats hung on in the East, probably supplemented by released/escaped captive animals of Western origin, and the explosion of the deer population is helping this scattered part-hybrid, part-native population to slowly rebuild its numbers. That means the reports will keep getting more numerous and more solid until the government scientists start agreeing with the cryptozoologists.