Welcome back to our update from the Awasi Puma Foundation (see part I of the Awasi Patagonia Puma Foundation Report here). In the following article we will follow our team of guides as they track the puma population on Estancia Lazo. This is a hotspot for puma sightings and, it turns out, a great place to catch a glimpse of the elusive Geoffroy’s Cat.
By the end of December, the team had laid hidden cameras across the estancia and managed to capture images of various pumas and Geoffroy’s Cats. Read on as we discover how the rest of the season goes as the team continues to explore the area and faces the decision of where to concentrate their efforts in this vast expanse of Southern Patagonia.
The team has to make a decision: continue focussing on the Geoffroy’s Cats, clearly of huge interest given how hard it can be to catch a glimpse of them, or switch their attention back to pumas, ostensibly the main reason for all of this activity.
Eventually it is decided to split the hidden cameras, with some being placed at higher spots on the estancia where Don Jorge informed them he has spotted pumas in the past. A natural forested embankment provides shelter from the ceaseless winds at this exposed spot, where rock formations form caves and canyons – ideal shelter for puma, and a perfect spot to leave some cameras. The remainder are left to continue collecting images of the Geoffroy’s Cats.
It’s the peak of high season, so visits are less frequent, but the cameras continue their work and puma images are captured regularly.
The number of Geoffroy’s Cat sightings has decreased, replaced by a female puma with a very dark tip to her tail, and other puma sightings in the same area. The team believe the increase in puma numbers has warded off the smaller Geoffroy’s Cat – perhaps they will return as the puma move on.
However, over the last week of the month, the hidden cameras captured three more sightings of Geoffroy’s cats, the last only one day before the trap was removed.
The team mount an expedition to trace the prints of these cats – if following puma trails is hard, tracking Geoffroy’s Cat’s is almost impossible! The trail is lost after about 25 metres, but it seems the cats were heading towards a wooded area known as Bosque Boul. Cameras are laid again – the search continues!
Discussions continue amongst the team as to how best to utilise the camera traps, and to balance the focus between the pumas and the Geoffroy’s Cats.
At the end of January, a guide had sighted puma back near the stone of Don Augusto, so attention was turned back to that area.
A kill was soon found about 600 metres from the road, and a mother puma with two cubs was spotted shortly afterwards nearby.
The team track the family for three days. The mother seemed relaxed but cautious, whilst the guides kept their distance and moved slowly so as not disturb her and her offspring. One of the cubs was relaxed and curious, whilst the other was shy and more cautious, spying on the group from behind shrubs and rocks.
After three days and some spectacular sightings, the team decided to move on to leave the family in peace and focus efforts elsewhere.
A couple of days later, a gaucho from the estancia spotted three puma with a kill in wetlands near the La Meseta crossroads – the family were on the move.
It can be a thankless task searching for puma – as common as they are in these parts, they are weary of humans and adept at blending in to their surroundings. The Awasi team has done an amazing job, making skilful use of hidden cameras and making use of local knowledge to get to know the habits of their feline neighbours.
Sightings of Geoffroy’s Cats are a huge bonus – the number of sightings is surely testament to the efforts and energy of the team. Don Jorge and his guachos have provided invaluable local knowledge to the team at Awasi Patagonia and it has been a privilege to work with them as they have embraced the presence of pumas and learnt to share the stunning landscape of Estancia Lazo with such a magnificent creature.
Awasi Patagonia is our 14-villa Relais & Chateaux lodge in Southern Chilean Patagonia. The Awasi team launched the Puma Foundation two seasons ago, back in 2017. If you would like to learn more or discuss collaboration with our foundation, please email the team on firstname.lastname@example.org