Lynx kittens euthanized by Fish and Game after South Anchorage neighborhood called for rescue

Alaska Zoo was willing to temporarily home the kittens and find long-term placement; agency says it was unaware of that plan
One of four lynx kittens that were spotted in a South Anchorage neighborhood looks down from...
One of four lynx kittens that were spotted in a South Anchorage neighborhood looks down from its perch in a tree. Three were taken in by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game after neighbors called for them to be rescued, but were euthanized less than a day later because a plan for permanent placement of the animals had not been made.(Photo courtesy Asher Pepiton)
Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 2:32 PM AKDT|Updated: Sep. 23, 2021 at 5:00 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Three lynx kittens were euthanized by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game earlier this week after being removed from a South Anchorage neighborhood. The Alaska Zoo says it was willing to home them until a permanent solution could be found, but the department now says it was unable to home them anywhere outside of Anchorage.

For weeks, people in South Anchorage have been watching a mother and her lynx kittens play and prowl in their neighborhood, attempting to catch the numerous rabbits that roam the area off of Old Klatt Road. Fish and Game told Alaska’s News Source on Wednesday that, at some point the mother and one of the kittens was shot by a homeowner defending chickens. However, in a press release on Thursday, the department wrote that one of the kittens had been killed by a car on a nearby roadway.

The three remaining kittens returned to the neighborhood on a regular basis.

On Tuesday, a neighbor called Fish and Game to say her dog had treed two of the kittens in her backyard. The department was able to capture all three kittens before the day was over and told neighbors the plan was to take them to the Alaska Zoo. However, they never made it. By late Tuesday afternoon the agency had euthanized all three.

Ryan Scott, assistant director with the Division of Wildlife Conservation under Fish and Game, said he believed the zoo had earlier expressed an interest in accepting more lynx, and that placing them in the zoo would “probably be a done deal.”

But Zoo Director Pat Lampi said that when he was contacted Tuesday about the three kittens, he told Fish and Game the zoo didn’t have the room to take them on a permanent basis, but would be happy to hold them until a new home could be found.

Lampi said he immediately started placing calls and eventually found a potential home out of state. When he got back to Fish and Game, he was told the animals had already been put down.

Scott said the decision was made because no definitive home for the kittens had been identified, adding that he was unaware that Lampi was making calls. He said it wasn’t fair to the animals to keep them in a holding pattern.

Three lynx kittens in a South Anchorage neighborhood were put down on Tuesday by Fish and Game
Three lynx kittens in a South Anchorage neighborhood were put down on Tuesday by Fish and Game(Courtesy: Kevin Hayes)

“Unfortunately, we’ve had plenty of cases where we thought we had it sorted out and it falls through at the last minute,” Scott said.

“We’ve also learned our lesson, if we don’t have a good sense of where we can place an animal it really is better to not engage in that and not have these animals parked some place for a long time,” he continued.

Scott said the agency also had some reservations about placing lynx out of state because of concerns over feline rabies or the possibility the animals could have or catch COVID-19. He said the agency would prefer to keep them in the Anchorage area, which is why they did not contact the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage. In the press release on Thursday, the state department said the lynx “were only approved for permanent placement within Anchorage and could not be transferred to an out-of-state facility at a later date.”

That decision was due to “disease transmission concerns” and at the recommendation of Fish and Game veterinarians, the release stated.

On Wednesday, Scott said the kittens, which were likely three to four months old were unlikely to survive on their own. In the Thursday press release, the department clarified that “they were in poor body condition.”

“We don’t enjoy putting those animals down any more than people like to hear about it,” Scott said, “but that is part of what we are charged to do.”

Editor’s note: This story has been edited to remove the name of one of the neighbors in the area, to respect the neighbor’s request for privacy. It has also been updated with information from a Thursday press release from the Department of Fish and Game that included different and additional information from what was told to Alaska’s News Source on Wednesday.

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