Puma

PUMA (Puma concolor)

The cat of many names, the puma is also known as mountain lion, cougar, catamount, shadow cat, and in Florida as a panther. Its latin name means cat of one color, describing the uniform brown, tan, or even reddish coat pattern of this beautiful cat. Though we think of pumas as big cats, they are actually more closely related to the small cats, like the jaguarundi.

Difficulty: Easy

Puma Tour Statistics

3 PUMA
TOURS RUN


18 DIFFERENT
PUMAS SEEN


45 MINUTES ON AVG
WITH EACH CAT

Puma Description

The puma is a large cat with a strong neck and head, heavily built chest, slender backside and powerful limbs. Its tail is about two thirds of its head to body length, and is tubular and does not taper. The puma is the world’s fourth largest cat, and in Patagonia there are some of the biggest pumas in the world, with females weighing around 45kg (100lbs) and males weighting up to 70kg (150lbs). In Patagonia, where we run our puma tour, the cats are generally a silvery-pale coloration, though some cats, like Ruprestra are much darker.

Rupestra, a female distinguished by her elongated face, and slightly darker head. She gave birth to her last litter of four cubs in 2019.

Puma Distribution and Habitat

Pumas have the largest distribution of any wild cat in the western hemisphere, ranging all the way from Alaska to southern Chile. In southern Patagonia, where we run the tour, however, is the only place they can be reliably seen. They occupy a large swath of different habitats, including deserts, swamps, mountains, forests, and shrubland. The habitat they prefer in Patagonia is called pre-Andean shrubland, which is made up of low shrubs that can withstand the strong Patagonian winds. One of the bushes in the area, called mata negra, is a favorite for the cats to hide and relax in.

Blinka hanging out in typical pre-Andean shrubland habitat. She sticks out in this photo, but most of the time the pumas blend into their habitat incredibly well.

Puma Feeding Biology

Though pumas predate on a large number of animals across their range, in Patagonia, the guanaco is the main prey on the puma’s menu. When hunting guanacos, pumas will start with an extended stalk. The most important thing during this part of the hunt is not to be spotted by one the male sentinel guanacos that dot the landscape. If the cat gets to within 10 meters of their prey, it will sprint into a final rush, often leaping on the prey’s back, bringing it down and killing it by asphyxiation. Depending on the prey, they will feed on it for 2-5 days.

Sol licking her lips while feeding on a guanaco killed two days prior. Almost all of the carcass has been eaten. Blinka made the actual kill, Sol just swooped in to feed.

Puma Social Organization

Pumas are generally thought of as being solitary, and they hold and maintain territories. A male’s territory is much larger than that of a female, and it will encompass as many females territories as possible. Females, on the other hand hold territories large enough to have and raise cubs. Male and female puma territories are generally independent of each other. In Patagonia it is not a huge surprise to see multiple pumas together. This can be cats sharing a kill, or mother pumas with their kittens. We have seen Sol, Blinka, and Hermanita all sharing the same space at the same time.

Petaca, on the left, is in a defensive posture here with Blinka. Petaca was following Blinka all day, but Blinka didn’t seem to want company that day.

Puma Reproduction

Pumas tend to give birth in spring, including in Patagonia, through births have been recorded at any time of year. The female will usually give birth to between one and four cubs, though litters of six have been recorded. The young are born in caves or very dense thickets, and are spotted at birth. They will leave the den at around one to two months and are dependent on their mother for food until around a year. Some will stay with their mom for up to two years before looking for their own territory. Pumas can live up to sixteen years in the wild.

Rupestra in 2019 with three of her four kittens at sunset. It is remarkable that she has raised all four cubs to adulthood. What an incredible mom.