The forests of Alaska are home to large predators like bears and wolves, but Alaska is considered to be outside the range of cougars, also called mountain lions and panthers. Cougar populations are increasing in many western states and Canada, and the big cats are expanding their range. The Yukon Territory was considered to be outside the cougar's range until recently. The first confirmed cougar sighting in the Yukon was in 2000. In 2015 two cougars were photographed just outside Whitehorse, and Canadian biologists say there is now evidence of a small, established breeding population of cougars in the Yukon.
State wildlife biologist Nick Demma studies large carnivores. He said expanding mule deer populations could help bring cougars into the state. Alaska used to be outside the range of mule deer, but deer are moving into Eastern Interior Alaska, and have been documented as far west as Fairbanks. Demma said: "Mule deer are a main prey for cougars where they co-exist. Mule deer sightings in the eastern Interior appear to be increasing and because source populations exist for cougars and mule deer next door in the Yukon it is certainly reasonable to expect that cougars could follow an expanding mule deer population eastern Interior Alaska."