THE BIG CAT OF THE AMERICAS: WHERE TO SEE THEM IN PATAGONIA.
One of the most impressive, yet elusive and hard to spot animals in Patagonia is the Puma Concolor. America’s mountain lion is a third cousin of the Big Cats from Asia and Africa. Even though it has always been difficult to see the King of Patagonia in its natural habitat, every time the sights are more frequent since they have been declared protected species both, in Argentina and Chile. Being able to see this amazing animal has nothing to envy the African Safaris.
The importance of Pumas in the ecosystem and their relationship with humans
Pumas are the last species in the food chain of Patagonia, so they are the main predators of Guanacos. When a puma kills a Guanaco, the meat lasts lots of days and also benefits scavenger species and worms. But the importance of Pumas goes beyond this. In Torres del Paine, there is a stable quantity of Guanacos, that easily reproduce, and everything in excess is bad. If they grow in number, without control, environmental manage occurs. Guanacos are resilient animals, they adapt to almost every climate and relief. They need a natural control of the population, the Puma.
It is important to learn about the relationship between humans and Pumas in Patagonia. Because of their importance to the ecosystem, we need to take good care of them. In Chile, many of them are killed because Estancias in Patagonia had pushed out Guanacos from their natural habitat and therefore Pumas don´t have where to get their food from. That’s why they started hunting sheep in the Estancias. Another problem is that when Pumas in Patagonia have puppies, they kill a lot of animals just to teach them, and this affects the economy of the Estancias. As a consequence humans hunt Pumas, which is illegal. Puma Puppies are extremely dependent on their mothers, and when they are illegally killed or run over by cars, the pups are left alone, with almost no chance of survival.
Also, irresponsible tourism has big impacts on nature. An example of irresponsible tourism is making fires. Making a fire in Torres del Paine national park is prohibited. And people do not care. There had been several fires during the lasts 15 years that damaged ecology too. But the most common example of irresponsible tourism is the waste that people produce in the park.
Can we see Pumas without causing a negative impact on them?
It is important to understand that, when traveling this area, you will be on the habitat of different animals and that you might see plenty of them. When seeing a Puma, or any other animal, on its natural area, people must be respectful and don’t get too close and lowly. If someone gets close, they might feel threatened on their own habitat, and it can be dangerous. Pumas in Patagonia can reach common areas, and we should be respectful. They do not see us as food, but there are two important rules that we should never break: “never run and never give your back to the Pumas”.
How and where can we see Pumas in Patagonia?
Torres del Paine National Park has a high density of pumas. But people do not see them, cause you must be really patient and know exactly where and how to find them. The better way to find pumas, and the only correct option, is to hire a Puma Tracker on a private tour and dedicate a few days while enjoying the park. Although it can be hard to see Pumas in Patagonia when hiring a local guide you might get understand and see the local flora and fauna in a better way.
Some mountain guides have become experts Pumas trackers. When trying to locate one, its really important to pay attention to all of our senses, but mostly, pay attention to Guanacos.
In Torres del Paine, Guanacos are Puma’s main food. And they know, how dangerous it is for them. They’ve developed a way of communication to alert other Guanacos when a Puma is around. If you suddenly see that Guanacos start making loud noises and held their heads high, it is probably because there is a Puma patrolling the area.
Also, the famous Condor helps to track Pumas, they are our eyes in the sky. They overfly the skies of Patagonia searching for carrion to feed themselves. Condors help indicate where you may find a dead Guanaco, they wait until the Puma leaves the prey. Nearby, should be the Puma.
When is the best time to see Pumas in Patagonia?
The best time of the year to see Pumas in Patagonia is between May and August. During the months of winter, almost all the animals come down to the mountains, because of the snow. Another reason is that it is the Park’s low season and it is uncrowded. It is hard to track Pumas, but at this moment of the year and with a Puma tracker you have many chances of seeing one. To increase the possibilities we recommend staying at least 3 days in the park and going at night or at sunrise.
Combine Puma tracking with the rest of Argentina and Chile
Puma tracking is only one of Argentina’s beautiful experiences. A trip to Torres del Paine National Park can be combined with other Patagonic amazing places like the city at the end of the world, Ushuaia, the Perito Moreno Glacier and Argentina’s trekking capital, in Calafate and Chalten, or the Lake District near Bariloche.
If you are interested in wildlife tours there are many specific places in Argentina and Chile where you can see Whales, Penguins, endemic Alligators, lots of birds species and more. Also, you can enjoy Argentina’s Highlights, a circuit which includes, besides Patagonia, tasting the best Malbecs in beautiful Vineyards in Mendoza, visiting Northwest Argentina and its amazing color mountains, the magnificent Iguazú Falls and Buenos Aires City.
By Morena Domsch – Beyond BA LATAM team
We invite you to discover the best places in Patagonia Argentina. Click here to see some tour examples.
Beyond BA LATAM offers tours and experiences for all these alternatives, where we stand out in tailor-made vacations, designed around your interests and travel style. Contact us, learn about more things to do in Argentina, and let’s plan your next beautiful journey together!