(Justin Shoemaker/USFWS, Public Domain)
(Justin Shoemaker/USFWS, Public Domain)

Mountain lions are not commonly spotted in Southeast Alaska, but earlier this month one was killed on the south end of Wrangell Island.

Alaska Wildlife Troopers and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game were notified that a mountain lion had been shot and killed on June 3. They took possession of the carcass and are conducting an investigation. Troopers leading the investigation declined to comment.

Riley Woodford, information officer with the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation in Juneau, said he knew of three other documented sightings of mountain lions in the region, though the most recent was 26 years ago.

On April 20, 1998, one was photographed near Meyers Chuck. In December 1998, a Wrangell trapper caught a mountain lion in a wolf trap on Kupreanof Island. In November 1989, a mountain lion was shot near Wrangell.

Woodford said mountain lions likely get to the region by traveling down river corridors from British Columbia.

“They’re certainly not crossing icefields,” he said.

Apex predators like mountain lions will disperse as young adults to find their own territories.

Young male mountain lions especially will travel quite far to find their own territory, Woodford said, and there have been cases down south where single mountain lions have traveled as far as hundreds or even thousands of miles.

He said predators like bears and mountain lions will become extremely aggressive over their territory and will even kill each other for encroaching on their territory.

Mountain lions mostly eat deer in western North America and elk if that’s available. They will also eat hares, rabbits and smaller animals.

Woodford added that people should not be worried about mountain lions. “They are not like wolves,” he said, “they are very shy and elusive.” The animals tend to stay far away from people, and incidents of them injuring humans are extremely rare.

There is no hunting season for mountain lions in the state, Woodford said. The only time they would be killed legally is in defense of life and property, he added, and in that case, the animal would become property of the state.