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.

Puma in the snow

Habitat

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.

Puma close up

Hunting Habits

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.

Puma in the snow

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.

"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."
Oliver Rodwell, Americas Specialist
Puma walking
In Numbers
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

When to go

Torres del Paine National Park
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On the Map

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Ollie is our 'Pumas' expert and as a seasoned traveller has the inside track on the most memorable adventures.