The elusive mountain lion is known for its stealthy hunting tactics. It is a silent stalker that touches the hearts of many outdoor adventurers. If you spend any time in wilderness areas frequented by mountain lions, it’s important to understand their habits and habitat. Yet in areas where cougars are rare, the stories of their presence are almost mythical. In Alaska, those stories took on a life of their own in one of the states. But are there really cougars in Alaska?
The following article explores this issue. We’ll separate fact from fiction on our journey to learn about the Alaskan cougar. You’ll find out if mountain lions traditionally lived in the state and where they are today.
mountain lion habitat
Cougar (cougar) There are also names for panther, cougar, or cougar. They live in almost every environment. You’ll find mountain lions in desert landscapes and alpine terrain. While they love rocky cliffs, they are also quite content with forest and wetland areas.
Areas at sea level are frequented by big cats. But they also roam close to the treeline. Hikers may see them as high as 10,000 feet.
As long as an area has an abundance of prey, cougars will be happy to call it home.
Most solitary animals have a wide range of territories. Adult males will have territories of up to 100 square miles. While adult females have a smaller range, they still have a range of between 20 and 60 square miles.
Mountain Lion Historic Home
The stunning cougar is native to most of the Americas. But Alaska has long been considered beyond the range of big cats. Most scientists don’t think they’ve ever lived in the Yukon.
Their historical range stretches from as far north as the Yukon Territory to as far south as Chile. This impressive animal has large populations in North, Central, and South America.
For years, however, hunters have relentlessly targeted cougars. Development in urban areas has destroyed the natural habitat of the mountain lion. These actions have greatly reduced the mountain population. Environmentalists have begun working to restore it to sustainable levels.
Today, mountain lions live in most, though not all, of their historical ranges. Cougars in the United States now only live in about 15 states.
Where do mountain lions in Alaska live?
State biologists don’t think mountain lions have made Alaska their home. However, that doesn’t mean the state doesn’t have cougars. Alaska shares a border with British Columbia. The province of Canada has a sizeable population of mountain lions.
Biologists estimate that there are about 3,500 mountain lions living in the Canadian province. While that’s not a huge number, it’s still an impressive amount for a cougar. Even more surprising, however, is where a significant portion of this population lives.
Vancouver Island in British Columbia is famous for its mountain lion population. In fact, it has the highest population density of big cats in the world. While that particular group won’t make it to Alaska, others in British Columbia seem to.
Scientists suspect that mountain lion sightings in Alaska are due to the animals wandering into the area. After all, wild animals don’t stop at state or national borders.
Reporting Mountain Lion Sightings
Residents of Alaska spend a lot of time in the wilderness. Hunting, fishing, and other outdoor pursuits beckon adventurers, drawing them to breathtaking landscapes. While those who venture into the wilds of Alaska often see a variety of wildlife, mountain lions are mostly elusive.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game receives numerous reports of mountain lion sightings from across the state. Reports of sightings on the Kenai Peninsula are not unheard of. But most (and most credible) are from around British Columbia.
Department officials likened the reports to Bigfoot. They may get several calls a year. Once they were made public, however, other unconfirmed reports followed.
Over the years, Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has recorded multiple mountain lion movements. However, none have been confirmed. And, in a series of sightings in the 1990s, it turned out to be a yellow dog, not a large cat.
But reports of cougar activity on the Cleveland Peninsula have stronger evidence. State biologists believe the cats could easily have roamed the region from British Columbia.
However, there are only a few documented and credible sightings. In 2000, a state biologist named Neil Barten saw strong evidence of mountain lions. Two years later, a state trooper saw one in Skagway.
Additionally, the state has only recorded two mountain lion deaths. In 1989, a mountain lion was shot near Wrangell, Alaska. In 1998, a trapper accidentally fell into a trap on South Kuprenov Island.
If it’s not a mountain lion, what is it?
Many reported Alaskan mountain lions are suspected of being other animals, such as the instance in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Many biologists believe that when someone sees a cougar, it’s actually a large dog.
Other sightings have been attributed to bobcats, yes Found in Alaska. Bobcats are especially adapted to the Alaskan weather, while mountain lions are not. And, although they are much smaller than cougars, bobcats are often mistaken for them.
How to Avoid Mountain Lion Attacks in Alaska
The good news is that you may never come across one of the few cougars that roam the state. Since they are not native to the area and have no known fixed population, mountain lions will be rare.
State officials also want to reassure people that no matter where you live, the chances of a mountain lion attack are extremely small. When they do happen, they seem to happen more often than they really do because of sensational news headlines. But they actually rarely happen. There are also no records of mountain lions attacking humans in Alaska.
However, there are some safety precautions you should take if you ever come across a cougar. Keep pets or small children close to you throughout your outdoor adventures. Any predator, including cougars, is naturally attracted to animals that are younger or smaller.
Also, if you see a cougar, hug your smaller companions to make them appear larger.
Stay away from cougars. But be sure to raise your arms, it will make you appear bigger. Whatever you do, don’t run. It triggers the cougar’s predatory instincts.
While mountain lion attacks are rare in the United States, know that you should fight back when an attack does occur.
- Do cougars attack humans?This is what the data says
- Mountain Lions in California: What You Need to Know
- Does bear spray work on mountain lions?
I am broadly interested in how human activities influence the ability of wildlife to persist in the modified environments that we create.
Specifically, my research investigates how the configuration and composition of landscapes influence the movement and population dynamics of forest birds. Both natural and human-derived fragmenting of habitat can influence where birds settle, how they access the resources they need to survive and reproduce, and these factors in turn affect population demographics. Most recently, I have been studying the ability of individuals to move through and utilize forested areas which have been modified through timber harvest as they seek out resources for the breeding and postfledging phases. As well I am working in collaboration with Parks Canada scientists to examine in the influence of high density moose populations on forest bird communities in Gros Morne National Park. Many of my projects are conducted in collaboration or consultation with representatives of industry and government agencies, seeking to improve the management and sustainability of natural resource extraction.
Leave a Reply