Mammals of Patagonia | Patagonia Unbound

Mammals of Patagonia

Andean Puma

ANDEAN PUMA 

The mountain lion, or puma, is a large feline which is great at adapting to its surroundings. Chile’s largest puma population is in Torres del Paine.

The cougar is agile and slender with a round head and erect ears. The jaw and fangs are powerful in order to catch and kill big prey. It has five retractable claws on its forepaws and four on its hind paws. The powerful hind legs allow for great leaping and short-sprint ability. The puma can jump more than 16 feet vertically and run as fast as 44 miles per hour.

The puma coloring is plain and can range from grey to reddish-brown. It preys on guanacos and hares and has been known to eat birds, eggs, and rodents. It remains hidden in the trees or brush before ambushing its prey. Then the cat takes its victim to a preferred spot where it covers it with brush and returns to geed over a period of days.

The puma is a solitary animal. Only mothers and their kittens live in groups. Females give birth to two or three cubs at a time. These cubs are born blind and are completely dependent on their mother. At three months of age they are weaned and begin to venture out with their mother. At six months they start hunting small prey on their own. They stay with their mother until they are about two years old all the while learning the skills necessary to survive on their own. Survival rate is just over one kitten per litter.

Males mark their own territory to avoid competing with other males. When two males encounter each other they may engage in violent conflict if neither backs down. The life expectancy for a puma is about 10 years. 

Culpeo

CULPEO (ANDEAN FOX)

The second fox to inhabit Patagonia is the culpeo fox, or the Andean fox. It looks similar to the red fox. Its dense fur has reddish tones. It is fairly large, ranging in size between a red fox and a coyote.  

The culpeo fox is found in the grasslands, steppes, deserts, and forests. It is carnivorous and opportunistic, feeding on rodents, birds, small guanacos, sheep and reptiles.  

Gray Fox

GRAY FOX

The gray fox, also known as the Patagonian fox is found in the Andes Mountain Range. The gray fox was introduced in the 1920s and 30s to the Falkland Islands. Shortly after it was also introduced in the 1950s to Tierra del Fuego.

With a combination of black and white fur the fox looks to have a grey coat. It has large ears and a long tail covered by dense fur. It is an omnivorous animal eating hares, rodents, carrion, birds, reptiles, arthoropods and fruits. 

Guanaco

GUANACO

The guanaco is one of Patagonia’s most iconic animals. Guanacos have long legs, a brown pelt, an upper lip chapped in the middle and big eyes with long eyelashes. The guanaco is double coated with a coarse guard hair and soft undercoat. The guanaco’s soft wool is valued second only to that of the vicuña and comparable to the best cashmere. The head and the back are brown while the belly and the legs have a lighter color.   

Guanacos can only be found in South America. 95% of the population is located in Argentina and there are also significant populations in Chile, while in Bolivia, Perú and Paraguay they are nearly extinct. They eat a great variety of vegetal species, mainly gramineae. Guanacos are gregarious animals, the live in herds with one dominant male, the females and their young. Their lifespan is 20 to 25 years. 

The guanaco can run over 30 miles per hour which is important for their survival. They live in places with little vegetation where it is not easy to hide. The mountain lion (or puma) is their natural predator. Whenever they feel threatened they spit saliva or even the grass they might be chewing.

The mating season occurs during the Southern summer, between November and February. During this time the males fight violently to establish their breeding and dominance rights. The gestation period for females is eleven months. Guanaco females have one single baby at a time called chulengo.

South Andean Deer

SOUTH ANDEAN DEER

The South Andean Deer is a medium-sized native deer of Patagonia. Its body is stout and robust with short legs. The females are slightly smaller than the males which have antlers forked near the base. The coat is thick, dense, and brown-colored, lighter or darker depending on the season.

South Andean deer live in small groups of two to three animals composed of a female and their young. Their diet is made of bushes, grass and leaves.

This species lives in the Andean-Patagonian forests, both in Chile and Argentina.