Big cat startles deer hunters

Mountain lion spotted in Tongass

Posted: Friday, August 20, 2004

KETCHIKAN (AP) A mountain lion has been spotted on Revillagigedo Island, startling deer hunters in the Tongass National Forest.

It is the first report of a mountain lion on the island, according to Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Boyd Porter.

Ken Parker and Clark Davis were hunting last week near Traitors Cove when they saw the mountain lion. As dusk began to gather, Parker spotted an animal on a 25-foot rock ledge about 50 yards away in the timber of a saddle between two mountain peaks. Parker raised his rifle and used its scope for a better look.

''It was a real shock for me to see that animal,'' Parker said. ''The heart rate went up and my mouth went dry, the whole bit.''

Mountain lions have been seen on the Cleveland Peninsula and near Wrangell and Petersburg in the past. Porter said the big cat's appearance on Revillagigedo Island may be a sign that they are expanding their ranges.

Davis and Parker estimated the mountain lion weighed between 140 and 160 pounds. They considered taking it down with the rifle, but hunting mountain lions is illegal in Southeast Alaska.

''If it had been legal, we would have taken the animal,'' Parker said. ''I would have myself a nice cougar hide.''

Biologists estimate some 3,500 mountain lions inhabit southern British Columbia, Canada, but the animals are considered to be rare in northern British Columbia and rarer still in Alaska.

A mountain lion was shot near Wrangell in November 1989, according to Fish and Game. In 1998, a trapper targeting wolves on South Kupreanof Island snared another of the big cats.

Porter said it would be a long time before mountain lions appear in any large numbers on Revillagigedo Island, but it could happen.

''It would just be a natural funnel for them. Their main prey is deer, so they would certainly find enough food here,'' he said.

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