There are lots of different names for these big cats, the most common being puma or cougar, but they're also known as mountain lions, panthers or catamounts. Pumas are recognisable by their slightly yellow coat, round face, pointed ears and long tail, which is nearly as long as their head and body combined. Unlike other big cats, pumas are mostly silent and cannot roar, instead they purr like a house cat and use whistles, screams and squeaks to communicate.
Pumas are usually very hard to see in the wild as they have huge ranges in unforgiving terrain: they live in a variety of habitats from desert scrubland to swamps and forests. They tend to avoid agricultural areas, flat lands and other areas that lack cover.
Pumas are mostly active at dusk, night and dawn, and can travel about six miles per night. Their primary prey is mostly hoofed mammals such as deer, but they're also partial to smaller animals like coyotes, porcupines and raccoons. They are generally slower than most of their prey but kill using the art of surprise, springing from cover at close range, usually from behind the unfortunate victim. They're also masters of disguise and prevent pesky scavengers from stealing their kills by dragging them to a secluded spot (the kill, not the pesky scavenger) and covering with leaves and debris to keep hidden.
Where to See Them
Pumas can be found all over South and North America with their range stretching from south eastern Alaska all the way down to southern Chile and Argentina, however, hunting has unfortunately reduced their range to isolated areas. In Torres del Paine National Park in Chile, there is a good chance of seeing pumas on private jeep safaris, particularly from May to August.
Oliver Rodwell, Americas Specialist
Awasi Patagonia have set up a Puma Foundation, working to protect the puma and the unique ecosystem they live in here, while running sustainable excursions to observe the species in their natural habitat.
- 50 miles per hour - Pace pumas can run at
- 15 feet - Height pumas can jump
- 500 square miles - Size a male puma's territory can be