Large cat sightings reported in Ketchikan

This is NOT a photo of the cat reportedly seen in Ketchikan. This is a mountain lion in the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. (National Park Service public domain image)

Mountain lions in Ketchikan? There were a couple of reported sightings recently. But, local Alaska Department of Fish and Game officials say they’d like more evidence.

Ketchikan resident Shauna Lee lives near the bottom of the Schoenbar Bypass in the Newtown area. She said she was standing at her kitchen window when she saw something moving outside.

“Which is not irregular for this area, we have a lot of deer that cross the street. But when I looked at it, my brain tried to register, ‘Oh, it must be a dog.’ But as I looked at it, I realized no, it’s a cat because the shoulder blades were rotating really prominently,” Lee said. “And then I looked at the back and the tail went all the way down to the street and it had a dark end to the tail. And I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! That is a mountain lion.’”

Lee said she tried to get a photograph of the animal, but it leapt over a cement wall and then a fence separating the road from the woodsy hillside. She said the cat was about half as tall as that cement wall.

“So it was about the size of a Labrador retriever,” Lee said.

Lee said she called Fish and Game to report the sighting, and was told that there had been another report of a big cat, maybe a mountain lion, from someone in the nearby Bear Valley area.

Boyd Porter is a Fish and Game wildlife biologist. He said there were two reports of possible mountain lion sightings. But he’s not convinced that it wasn’t just a particularly large domestic cat

Porter said there have been previous sightings of mountain lions, also called cougars, in the region.

“There’s been one confirmed sighting around the Margaret Creek area on Revilla Island, so it’s not out of the question,” Porter said. “There’s also been other sightings over the years in the early ‘90s out on the Cleveland Peninsula – Myers Chuck.”

For the most part, though, Porter said this area doesn’t offer the right kind of habitat for cougars. He’s never seen one in this area, and never seen signs of one anywhere near town.

Shauna Lee said it could have been a really large domestic cat, like a Norwegian mountain cat. But she did a little research, and what she saw was pretty similar to online photographs of mountain lions.

Porter said fully grown mountain lions are bigger than most dogs, even large dogs. They weigh up to 150 pounds, and their tails are about as long as their bodies.

Porter said anyone who believes they’ve seen a cougar in the Ketchikan area should try to get a photograph, and send it his way.