Pumas on the prowl

Pumas in Torres del Paine National Park

A Puma (Puma concolor) was spotted prowling around the Torres del Paine National Park, close to Explora’s Hotel Salto Chico. The puma or mountain lion is a large meat- eating cat native to the American continent. Its habitat extends from Canada in the north to the Patagonian prairies of South America. The best time of year for sighting pumas in Patagonia is during the winter months (June to September), when there are fewer visitors to the Park and the pumas come down from the mountains to hunt guanacos and other mammals. It is the second heaviest cat in the Western Hemisphere, after the jaguar. Solitary by nature and often nocturnal, the puma is most closely related to smaller felines and is nearer genetically to the domestic cat than true lions. The grace and power of the puma have been widely admired in the cultures of the indigenous peoples of the Americas. The Inca city of Cusco is reported to have been designed in the shape of a puma, and the animal also gave its name to both Inca regions and people. The Moche people of Peru represented the puma often in their ceramics. The sky and thunder god of the Inca, Viracocha, has been associated with the animal. Attacks on humans are very rare, as puma prey recognition is a learned behaviour and fortunately they do not generally recognize humans as prey.

RELATED: Wildlife spotlight on the Andean condor

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