What’s driving Anchorage’s recent string of urban lynx encounters? Here’s what biologists say.

A lynx walks down the Chester Creek Trail in Anchorage on Friday, November 15, 2019. (Photo Courtesy of Petra Davis)

Wolverines aren’t the only animals popping up in unusual places around Anchorage. Recently, residents have reported seeing lynx in more urban areas.

Dave Saalfeld is a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Anchorage. He says it’s not unusual for there to by lynx sightings in the Anchorage Bowl. But they typically stay close to heavily wooded areas near the mountainside.

“Specifically we get a lot of reports along the hillside,” Saalfeld said. “Specifically along Far North Bicentennial, where there’s big woods. Lynx track the snowshoe hare cycles. So wherever there’s a good population of prey, particularly snowshoe hares, that’s where you have lynx reports.”

Last month, a lynx was spotted in Anchorage’s Airport Heights neighborhood, several miles from Far North Bicentennial Park. And on Friday, a resident captured a video of the animal walking along the Chester Creek Trail.

Lynx are a species of wild cat. They have a distinct nobby tail and tufts of hair that sprout up from their ears.

Saalfeld says there hasn’t been a close study of lynx numbers in the area, so it’s hard to say for sure whether the population is up. But, he says hare numbers are increasing right now.

“Typically lynx, when they follow the 9-to-11 snowshoe hare cycle you get increased recruitment rates,” Saalfeld said. “So more kittens each year during the peaks — during the high part of the snowshoe hare cycle. So one hypothesis would be that there might be more lynx around because they’re having more kittens each year as the snowshoe hares are increasing right now.”

Saalfeld says lynx are secretive and shy and they aren’t known for conflicts with humans. But, they may be interested in small animals, like rabbits and chickens.