It was a short hike from our vehicle to the spot where this female Puma had killed a new-born Guanaco. The unfortunate mother looked on and was alarm calling to warn other Guanaco of the danger. We were fortunate that our time in Torres del Paine coincided with the short period over which all the Guanco give birth, so there was ample opportunity for the Pumas to hunt. We were to see several animals on kills during our time in Torres del Paine, an impressively beautiful place.
The Puma (Puma concolor), is also commonly known as the cougar or mountain lion. The subspecies in Patagonia is the South American Puma, Puma c. patagonica. Pumas are the fourth largest cat after Tigers, Lions and Jaguars. Adult males are around 2.4m long from nose to tail tip, and females average 2.05m. Males weigh an average of 80kg but can reach 100kg. Females typically weigh between 29 and 64kg, averaging 50kg. Pumas stalk their prey through bushes and across rock ledges before leaping onto the back of their victim and inflicting a suffocating neck bite. Pumas will cover the carcass of large prey and return to feed over several days.
In Patagonia the preferred prey of the Puma is the Guanaco. The Guanaco (Lama guanicoe) is a camelid native to South America and is closely related to the Llama. Guanacos live in herds of females, their young, and a dominant male. Bachelor males form separate herds. While reproductive groups tend to remain small, often containing no more than 10 adults, bachelor herds may contain as many as 50 males. When they feel threatened, Guanacos alert the herd to flee with a high-pitched, bleating call. The male usually runs behind the herd to defend them.