Bears? Yes. Apes? Yes. Guys in costumes? Definitely yes. Mountain lions? Hmm. When the question is, “What do most Bigfoot sightings turn out to be?”, cougars isn’t a popular choice, especially since they can’t walk upright … at least not in this dimension. Yet that’s exactly what is being implied about a strange animal sighting in Alaska – a state that’s surprisingly not high on the list of Sasquatch appearances … or mountain lions either. What about Bigfoot costumes? What about a Land-Otter Man? A what?
“Alaska’s feline Bigfoot? Mountain lion sightings reported in Delta Junction”
The Anchorage Daily News sounds a little disappointed with that headline. It recently reported that Joel Holbrook, an Alaskan living near Delta Junction, a small town in the Southeast Fairbanks near Canada’s Yukon border, went looking to see why his Australian shepherd was barking and encountered what he believed was a mountain lion. Unfortunately, he went for his gun rather than his camera, so there’s no record of his sighting. Fortunately, at least for the alleged cougar, no dead mountain lion either.
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The Alaska Department of Fish and Game reports that verifiable cougar sightings in Alaska happen only once every few years, mostly in the southeastern part of the state bordering Canada, where the beasts are more common. Since this is deep wilderness, photographs are extremely rare. (Here's one of a 2015 sighting.) However, despite being a sparsely populated area where property owners keep a shotgun by the front door (and probably by the back door and next to a few windows as well), killed cougars are almost non-existent.
“I’m not comfortable saying we’ve got many, if any, mountain lions showing up in the Interior certainly to any extent you can see them. I’m sure they’re following the deer.”
Tony Kavalok, assistant director of the state’s Wildlife Conservation Division, told The Anchorage Daily News his feelings that the rare cougars may be following the almost-as-rare mule deer as they escape the Canadian hunting grounds. TheAlaskaLife.com points out that many recent sightings have turnout out to be dogs or lynx, a more common Alaskan big cat. Neither have the cache of Bigfoot, which is probably why The Anchorage Daily News tried to link the sighting to it. Those who know Alaskan cryptozoology may wonder: why not the Land-Otter Man?
In his book, "In Search of the Kushtaka: Alaska’s Other Bigfoot," Dennis Waller links Bigfoot not to cougars but to the Native American Tlingit people and their legendary creature known as the Kushtaka or Land-Otter Man. And that hybrid combination is not the most unusual characteristic of this creature – the Tlingit people believed Kushtaka was a telepathic shape-shifter who could manipulate space and time. A Kushtaka could explain the rare cougars – otters walk on all fours and Kushtaka’s can disappear or take the shape of a cougar -- and they can also stand upright, making them look more like a Bigfoot. Unfortunately, the Kushtaka doesn’t have the same kind of public relations and social media support as Bigfoot (although that may be changing with a new Kushtaka movie), so those reporting strange animal sightings in Alaska tend to forget them.
What did Joel Holbrook see? Most likely, a cougar. But don’t forget the Kushtaka!