Creature Feature: Guanacos in Patagonia

David Thyberg ©

The sleek and powerful guanacos are native to the arid, mountainous regions of South America. In Chile and Argentina, they are more numerous in the Patagonian steppes, in places like the Torres del Paine National Park, and Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego, where they roam wild all year round. Because they are found at such high altitudes, they have developed to survive the low oxygen levels.

FLASH FACT: Apparently a teaspoon of guanaco blood contains about 68 million red blood cells – 4 times that of a human. Something any athlete would dream of!

Guanaco fur ranges from a light brown to dark cinnamon and shading to white underneath. They have small grey faces which makes their big pointed ears and large brown eyes really stand out. Their streamlined form and nimble nature allows them to reach up to speeds of 35mph even over the steep and rocky terrain! Guanacos, with a typical life span of 20 to 25 years, live in herds composed of females, their young and a dominant male. But the bachelor males like to form their own exclusive separate herd. When they feel threatened, (usually from their one natural predator, the puma), guanacos alert the herd to flee with a high-pitched bleating call. However, with the reduction in range and numbers of pumas, guanacos have begun to flourish. On Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego you can see them in large numbers, and they are not as shy as those on the mainland.

Click here to watch guanacos roaming free in Torres Del Paine National Park, Patagonia.

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