Pumas of Patagonia

Puma

Appearance: Pumas have large powerful, slender bodies of up to 2.5m long, with long necks, small heads and a thick, heavy tail of 75cm long. Their hind legs are longer than their front legs, elevating their rear for jumping. Their coats are pale, sandy grey, enabling them to camouflage well in the Patagonian steppe, and they have a white belly, chin, throat and upper lip. The Patagonian Puma is the largest of the species in the Americas.

Behaviour: Pumas are solitary animals, only generally travelling in groups as females with cubs. Males are territorial, but share their territory (marked by urine and excrement) with at least one female. They will den in / under trees, and in rocky crevices or hollows. Pumas are largely nocturnal but do get out and about during the day as well, covering up to 75,000 acres in range. They mostly feed on guanacos, rheas, maras, small rodents and deer, and occasionally attack domestic livestock and sheep.

Protection: The Puma is fully protected in Chile and is classed as 'near threatened' due to years of hunting by farmers protecting their livestock.

Range: The Patagonian Puma can be found throughout Patagonia from Arica to Magallanes, in woodland, steppe and mountainous areas, but is most easy to spot in Torres del Paine National Park.

Where to find Pumas

Puma

Although Pumas can be found throughout Patagonia, there is an exceptional high density in the Torres del Paine National Park area, which makes it the most popular and sought after destination on earth for watching and photographing them. This is largely due to the large supply of guanacos (a favourite meal for the puma) in the Patagonian steppe, and also the additional protection from hunting and tracking that pumas have received in the National Park and surrounding areas over recent years.

Torres del Paine is the best destination in Patagonia for an organised puma tracking trip with pretty much guaranteed sightings, but you need to allow at least 3 days to give yourself the best chances. Pumas are most often spotted at dawn and dusk, so you need to be prepared for a few early mornings with your binoculars at the ready! Pumas can be spotted in various other areas of Patagonia, but dedicated tracking trips are not yet set up beyond Torres del Paine.

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Puma Tracking

A Brief History

Puma

After many years of Pumas being hunted in Torres del Paine by farmers trying to protect their livestock, or to make money from the skins, the hunting of Pumas was banned in the park in 1972. Many of the once hunters, have since changed their mentality towards the puma, and puma tourism is now helping to change long ingrained attitudes.

Since then, with no predators to speak of, and an unlimited food supply of juicy guanacos, the Puma population has been steadily growing. The population is believed to be between 50 - 100 individuals, and growing. The biggest threat to pumas is now tourism, and it is our responsibility to ensure that puma tourism is well controlled and monitored.

Responsible Puma Tracking

Puma

We have carefully selected our Puma tracking, and wildlife spotting partners in Torres del Paine in order to ensure that we are doing the best we can to protect the wildlife whilst enabling people to encounter it. 

In accordance with regulations from 2015, our guides will never take you searching for pumas off of the main trails within the official National Park boundaries, but don't worry, pumas are frequently spotted from the roads within the park.

We also have access to areas of private land where puma tracking is permitted off road, but even in these areas puma tracking is done with extreme care and consideration. Our guides will never go searching for pumas in/ around their dens, or get too close when they find them out and about.

Our guides and trackers will never bait, chased or interfere with the pumas- they know how to read a pumas behaviour and react in a safe and respectful manner.

Photos (C) Enrique Couve (C) Claudio F. Vidal 

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