Our adventure began with a basic sighting of a female Puma with four cubs. I guess four cubs with an adult is not really a basic sighting but compared to our other sightings on that trip I am referring to it as that. Mamma was busy finishing up with the scraps of her latest Guanaco kill when we approached with anxious eyes. She looked up at us with just a slight glance and went back quickly to chewing the bones of her prey.
As we made our way into position and began to photograph, the cubs took off to explore on their own. They were busy jumping, scratching, biting, pawing and challenging each other as siblings do. They wanted nothing to do with the meat that mom had been so intent on finishing. Nor did they care too much for us. The sheer joy displayed in the way they moved and played showed a hint of innocence and naivete.
Torres del Paine National Park does not allow hunting or tracking of Puma by humans. And the surrounding ranches (with the exception of one) have become a safe haven for the Puma as many of the ranchers have moved their livestock elsewhere and now find value in keeping the cats alive for photographers.
Without human predators these Puma cubs will have a much better chance of survival. They will have to face the brutal winds and tough winter conditions that Patagonia is famous for. I’m also thinking that lone male Puma are still a threat to the little ones. However, mamma is strong and brave and she will do her best to protect them.
Each cub has different markings on their faces. The one pictured above was the one that I thought had the most puma-like features. I named him “Fearless”, his personality was that of an independent adult (though I can’t be 100% sure he is not a she). He strayed much farther than the other cubs from mamma, he was also more curious than they were. He was also the first cub to make it to the meat meal and have his fair share of the feast. Every time I saw a cub doing something bold or making a move to mimic mom, it was “Fearless”, he had my heart from the first minute I saw him. When the researcher saw the young cub chase mamma far from the protection of the makeshift den he said “he’s going to be the one that survives”. I smiled with such pride.
Leaving the Puma cubs behind was hard, I worried for them and hoped that they would all survive and grow to be strong and fearless.
*Plans are underway for a return visit to Patagonia in May of 2021. I am hoping to not only see this Puma family but maybe even a brand new family. Interested parties can contact me.