Patagonia Puma Cubs

I started the day putting good intentions into the universe that we would be honored with seeing one of the many special puma that lives in this region.

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We started our day before sunrise to wake up with the resident birds. We headed into Puma territory called Hunters to bird watch and hopefully spot a Puma. Our first little visitor was a curious grey fox crossing the road. We made our way to a small lake in the valley where we saw many small birds and ducks. We even saw the cutest field mouse grazing on grass. We continued onto a private path where our guide had heard the news that a family of pumas had been spotted there the day before in hopes they were still around. As we were discussing the Pumas they magically appeared! We could see they were heading over a ridge so we drove in the direction they were headed to try and get a better view. As we slowly scanned the terrain we saw movement in a low laying grassy field. There they were! A Female Puma with her three cubs. We pulled over so we could get out of the van and try to capture these incredible creatures. Mom spotted us right away and brought her babies up to the ridge as if to pose for us. This was one of the most exhilarating moments of my life as a photographer. To be able to witness them in their natural habitat was an honor.

Believe it or not wildlife photographers were a huge part in how Pumas are being saved today. 150 years ago ranchers and pumas were enemies. Ranchers used their land for sheep farming and pumas preyed on their livestock and in turn herders would kill the puma to protect their livelihood. It’s important to mention that a common belief system was supported in Chilean Patagonia for the longest time.. Illegal puma hunting has been supported unanimously by both ranchers and government agencies in charge of managing and protecting wildlife because of the belief that the practice provided employment for puma hunters, protected livestock, and generally supported the idea that people needed to care for themselves rather than rely upon government agencies to do so. About 20 years ago, wildlife photographers took interest in spotting pumas in their natural habitat in and around Torres Del Paine. Just in the last few years, predator tourism in the area has grown rapidly due to new interest from tourists to see pumas in the wild, with local tourism agencies offering appealing vacation packages exclusively for puma observations. Slowly, one by one ranchers are starting to see the benefit of learning new ways to coexist with the pumas. One way that conservation groups stepped in to help protect both livestock and pumas is with guardian dogs, usually a mix of Great Pyrenees and Anatolian shepherd. They bond with the sheep starting as puppies and become very protective of them.

There are two lodges I can recommend @AwasiPatagonia and @TierraPatagonia. Awasi is a private reserve that forms part of a natural corridor for animal movement. Unable to sit by and watch these beautiful creatures fall into decline, Awasi has expanded its private reserve eight-fold by renting a neighboring sheep farming estancia, thus creating a protected area spanning a vast 11,000 acres. Their mission is to protect the endangered puma population and other native species by limiting the amount of land being over-grazed in farming. In time their balanced land management approach will regenerate the grass lands to become habitable once more for native wildlife. Tierra Patagonia is an eco-adventure lodge that will customize a daily adventure of a lifetime. The design pays homage to the local countryside and cultures, with gardens enriched by indigenous plant species and traditional crops, promising a farm-to-fork dining experience Adventure travel and simple luxury, blended into an unforgettable experience.

Conservation Travel Tip – Most of the land in Torres Del Paine is protected so please don’t be so adventurous to go on your own and create your own trails. The top soil is so fragile in this ecosystem it only destroys it. Please stay on the already created trails to explore this untouched land. It is not ours, its theirs. We are guests in this wild place so please mind your manners. @leavenotrace practice is mandatory here. Please remember the seven principles I taught you in my last post (Zion National Park, Utah)

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*All Photos taken of animals in their natural habitat undisturbed.