Puma Facts | Patagonia Wildlife Guide
PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICSThe puma is a member of the Felidae family and is the largest predator in Patagonia. Females weigh 110 pounds while the larger male weighs approximately 176 pounds, and they are generally between 10 to 12 feet in length. Pumas have a rounded head with erect ears and strong jaws for clutching prey. Their sleek, muscular bodies end with a thick, long tail, and their large forepaws have five retractable claws, including a dewclaw. Their fur is typically a tawny golden color, though they may have more silvery or reddish coats.
HABITAT & HUNTINGPumas inhabit 28 countries in the Americas, and Patagonian pumas, one of the largest subspecies, can be found from Arica to Magallanes near the tip of Chile. They dwell in shrubby steppe ecoregions, dense woodlands, and mountains, and are most easily spotted in Torres del Paine National Park, where there is a particularly high density. In Torres del Paine, males and females have overlapping home ranges up to 40 square miles in size.
Prowling the rocky crags and forests, these agile, sharp-eyed cats are extremely proficient night hunters, with a highly developed sense of smell and hearing. These carnivores hunt animals both large and small, including birds such as lesser rheas and upland geese, small mammals such as rodents and hares, deer, and occasionally domestic livestock. The
REPRODUCTIONWhile pumas, like most cats, are solitary creatures, adults come together to breed, and mothers are fiercely protective of their cubs. Females become sexually mature at 1.5 to 3 years old, and typically give birth to one litter every two to three years. During the spring, a male puma breeds with many females, leaving mothers to raise their cubs alone. After a 3-month gestation period, mothers give birth in a cave or alcove to a litter of between one and six cubs–typically two.
The blind newborns, who will open their eyes after two weeks, weigh only 1 pound. They are covered with black spots, which help camouflage them from predators and eventually fade with age. The
CONSERVATION STATUSPumas in Patagonia are threatened by a loss of prey as agricultural developments infringe on their habitat. As the population of guanacos decreases from having to compete for grass with introduced livestock, pumas resort to hunting the sheep of ranchers. Pumas are often poached as a backlash for killing domestic animals, and this has provoked people to create initiatives to mitigate human-puma conflict and promote co-existence between humans and the local wildlife.
Solutions for ranchers include livestock guarding dogs and corralling sheep at night, and for pumas, eco-tourism may be one of their best sources of protection. The importance of preserving critical puma habitat is enforced
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