Because many of the residents of Alaska live in rural wilderness areas, domestic pets who live with them are vulnerable to many dangers, including predators. To keep their pets safe, Alaska residents should be aware of which wild animals in the area pose a threat to their dogs and cats. For example, Alaska is home to one native species of wild cat, the lynx, with possible sightings of another cat, the cougar noted in some areas.
In this article, we’ll tell you a little about the wild cats in Alaska, including their preferred habitat and hunting times. We’ll also let you know how to keep your pets safe from these Alaskan predators.
The Lynx: Alaska’s Native Wild Cat
The lynx is a medium-sized wild cat, usually between 18-40 pounds. They have short tails, big furry feet that help them walk on snow, and long tips on each ear. Their thick gray fur helps them ward off the Alaskan cold and blend into the harsh terrain at the same time.
Lynx are present throughout much of Alaska, generally, anywhere there is a sufficient population of snowshoe hares, their primary food source. They prefer forests or mixed vegetation habitats. However, they are not known to live in extreme southeast Alaska, including the islands of that region.
The lynx prefers to hunt at night and is generally most active at dawn and dusk. They are comfortable hunting near human habitats, although they are elusive enough to avoid being seen.
Cougars: Alaska’s Mysterious Wild Cat
Cougars, also called mountain lions or panthers, are not native to Alaska, nor is the state considered part of their natural range. However, occasional credible sightings of this wild cat have been reported in the state since the late 1980s.
Canada is home to a strong population of cougars, including the province of British Columbia, which borders Alaska. The sightings of cougars in Alaska have tended to take place in regions near the Canadian border.
With increased populations of cougars both in Canada and in western parts of the Lower 48 states, biologists believe it’s certainly possible some of the wild cats may find their way into Alaska.
Cougars, especially males, are known to range hundreds and even thousands of miles in search of new territory. That certainly puts Alaska within a reasonable distance of known populations of cougars in other areas. Pet owners, especially in southeastern Alaska, must consider the possibility that cougars could pose a threat to their animals.
Keeping Pets Safe From Wild Cats In Alaska
While domestic pets aren’t a natural food source for lynx or cougars, a hungry wild cat won’t be picky about their meals if their regular prey becomes scarce. Because of this, Alaska pet owners should take steps to keep their animals safe.
Pets should be kept safely behind closed doors at night, either in the house or in a sturdy outbuilding. Lynx do their hunting at night so if your pet is indoors during those times, they will be much safer.
If you own livestock or other prey animals like chickens and rabbits, make sure they are securely enclosed at night as well to avoid attracting wild cats.
Keep any other potential food sources out of your yard. Don’t leave leftovers, grill grease, or other food scraps in the yard. Keep all garbage securely out of reach.
Clean up any pet waste that’s in your yard as well. If your pets are outside at dawn or dusk, monitor them carefully, even if you have a fenced-in yard. Lynx and cougars are both capable climbers.
Learning to coexist with wildlife is a fact of life for anyone who chooses to live in a rural setting, particularly one as wild as Alaska. Besides lynx, Alaska is also home to other predator species like bears and wolves. Learning about the hunting habits and behaviors of wild cats and other predators can help pet owners keep their domestic animals as safe as possible from their wild neighbors.
Featured Image Credit: miroslav chytil, Shutterstock