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Kushtaka or Kooshdakhaa ( lit. "land otter man") are mythical shape-shifting creatures found in the legends of the Tlingit peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. They are similar to the 'Watsa of the Ts'msyen people, Nat'ina of the Dena'ina Native Americans of South Central Alaska, and the Urayuli of the Yup'ik in Western Alaska.


Kushtaka are shape-shifters capable of assuming human form, the form of an otter and potentially other forms. In some accounts, a Kushtaka is able to assume the form of any species of otter; in others, only one. In some stories, Kushtaka are cruel creatures who take delight in tricking Tlingit sailors to their deaths. In others, they are friendly and helpful, frequently saving the lost from death by freezing. Kushtaka can be warded off with copper, urine, dogs and fire. It is said they emit a high pitched, three part whistle in the pattern of low-high-low


In many stories, the Kushtaka save lost individuals by distracting them with otter-like illusions of their family and friends as they transform their subject into a fellow Kushtaka, thus allowing him to survive in the cold. In other legends it is said the Kushtaka will imitate the cries of a baby or the screams of a woman to lure victims to the river. Once there, the Kushtaka either kills the person and tears them to shreds or will turn them into another Kushtaka.


The Kushtaka is featured on an episode of Alaska Monsters. On the first night recon, Todd gets the scare of his life when the Kushtaka pulled him into a small lake. The next morning, him and Rhett start building a spiritual-type trap. On the last night hunt, Rhett is apparently seen walking away from the team, but then the real Rhett appears behind them, which shows that the shape-shifting part may be true. The creature set off the trap without being seen on the cameras, but somehow got away.


As the Kushtaka mainly preys on small people, it is thought to be a legend used by Tlingit mothers to stop their children from wandering close to the ocean by themselves.

In Popular Media[]

  • The 22nd episode of the Cryptonaturalist podcast is titled "Kushtaka" and features one.


Further Reading[]