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2012.04.02 16:32:08
Recent sightings of Puma at Chile's Torres del Paine National Park [March 2012]

 

There is something very special and rewarding when you are fortunate enough to see a big cat in the wild, and Pumas are a perfect example of this feeling, a real priviledge for the nature enthusiast. 

The last fire of December 2011 / January 2012, which was produced by a negligent and irresponsible visitor to this magnificent national park of southern Chile, caused significant damage and devastation to its native vegetation and variety of habitats. You can readily see the fire effects on the plant communities but you soon start to wonder 'what are the real effects to the life cycles of the animals, particularly the park's apex predator', the magnificent Puma (Puma concolor patagonica). 

Pumas are lonely hunters on these vast domains, preying primarily on the ubiquituous camel-like Guanaco and the introduced European Hare. The pastures of these two herbivores were affected by the fire and consequently the feeding grounds and territories of many individual Pumas were disturbed. 

 

puma-torres-del-paine-chile_-2

 

Pumas, both males and females, are highly territorial and they do move considerably within the boundaries of their feeding grounds, looking for prey and actively marking with scent the extent of their domains.

Recently, several pumas have been seen 'wandering' from fire-affected areas into hunting territories of other well-established cats, and consequently this re-arranging of overlapping territories, will mean eventually some disputes and can even affect the reproduction success of several females.

 

puma-torres-del-paine-chile_-3

 

During the last week of March 2012, we had the great priviledge of seeing Puma during two of of our mammal-oriented tours, operated for renowned nature companies (1, 2). A young female, in particular, with its three-month old cub at the shores of the huge Sarmiento Lake, caught our fascination. This lovely female looked at excelent condition as its sole litter. They were both seen during consecutive days feeding on a fresh kills, consisting on a large-sized guanacos. Other pumas, mostly males, were spotted at different corners of the park, as far south a Paine River near Lago Toro.

 

puma-torres-del-paine-chile_-8

 

Our main concern is the lack of current long-term research on the population dynamics of these charismatic cats and the immediate effects caused by the fire on their diet and reproduction success. We urge park authorities and conservation organizations in setting up research and conservation initiatives in the near future; as a company we would be delighted and very committed to support scuh studies.

 

puma-torres-del-paine-chile_-9



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