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 hunt prey using shape-shifting abilities. This is another creature that was tracked down on Alaska Monsters.
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.
Physically, 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. Accounts of their behaviour seem to conflict with one another. In some stories, Kushtaka are cruel creatures who take delight in tricking poor Tlingit sailors to their deaths. In others, they are friendly and helpful, frequently saving the lost from death by freezing. In many stories, the Kushtaka save the lost individual by distracting them with curiously 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. Naturally, this is counted a mixed blessing. However, Kushtaka legends are not always pleasant. In some 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.
Legends have it Kushtaka can be warded off through copper, urine, dogs, and in some stories, fire.
Since the Kushtaka mainly preys on small children, it has been thought by some that it was used by Tlingit mothers to keep their children from wandering close to the ocean by themselves.
It is also said that the Kushtaka emit a high pitched, three part whistle in the pattern of low-high-low.
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.
In Popular Media
- The 22nd episode of the Cryptonaturalist podcast is titled "Kushtaka" and features one.