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Puma: One of the America’s top predators

Puma: One of the America’s top predators
Ricardo
Author:
Ricardo Casarin
May 15, 2020

The puma is a large wild cat found in both North and South America. It is extremely adaptable and able to live in a wide range of habitats, from forests to deserts. It is an expert ambush predator, an amazing jumper, and the second largest cat in the Americas (the largest being the jaguar).

Given their inherent caution and stealthy nature, they’re nearly impossible to see in the wild. About the only place on the planet (other than a zoo) where you’re almost guaranteed a puma sighting is Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile, home to about dozens of the big tawny colored cats.

Photo: João Marcos Rosa. All rights reserved.

Their relatively high numbers in Torres del Paine is due to abundant prey (especially hares and guanacos), the vast expanse with few human inhabitants, the camouflage provided by the park’s yellow grasses and reddish scrub, and the fact they haven’t been hunted for so long within the park boundaries.

Adult males grow to 1.8 to 2.4 meters (6 to 8 feet) long and females average 1.5 to 2.1 meters (5 to 7 feet). Males typically weigh 50 to 82 kilograms (110 to 180 lbs) and the female 36 to 59 kilograms (80 to 130 lbs).

Pumas are powerfully built, with large paws and sharp claws. Their hind legs are larger and more muscular than their front legs to give them great jumping power. They can run up to 80 km/h (50 mph) and jump as high as 4.6 meters (15 feet).

Like most cats, the puma lives and hunts alone, and only actively seeks out other pumas in order to breed. The puma is nocturnal (active during the night), and is also likely to be active at dawn and at dusk. Although it usually moves under cover of darkness, it’s not all that unusual for a puma to be seen during the day.


About the only place on the planet (other than a zoo) where you’re almost guaranteed a puma sighting is Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile, home to about dozens of the big tawny colored cats.

One of the best ways to observe and photograph these cats is joining our Wild Puma Tracking Tour. Offered from September until May, the SouthQuest tours are led by the expert guide Ricardo Casarin and you still have the possibility of being accompanied by nature photographer João Marcos Rosa, who has several trips to Torres del Paine with amazing images of the cats.

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