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Wild Pumas - Chile 2023
Trip Report

YouTube Channel

For over a decade we've been traveling to Torres del Paine National Park and surrounding ranchland to photograph Pumas and other wildlife, and spectacular landscapes too. This year was one of the best, for several reasons.

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It's been three years since we'd last been to the area, thanks to Covid, but during that time some significant changes have occured. One of the best was the network of jeep trails now connecting all the great Puma ranges, allowing us to drive, in minutes, what took hours in the past. These jeep trails are private and accessible only to the licensed guides, so the property is exclusive, and there are no crowds. Consequently, we had the Pumas to ourselves or with another small group (which was rarely).

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Puma landscapes, against a stormy sky and late in the day on a ridge line.

The other great change was in the number of Pumas we're now seeing. A friend recently commented that when he went with us several years ago we had five pumas, and we thought that was wonderful. On our latest trip we had 11 different Pumas, and most of these consisted of a female with two, three, or four nearly full grown cubs. I didn't even bother counting how many sightings we had, since by our second day we were already over 11, and I suspect in total the encounters exceeded 20.


Puma subadults at play chasing each other

One of the most interesting encounters was the time we spent at a kill, where two different families of Pumas fed upon a Guanaco taken earlier in the day. Most of the time the families fed at separate times, but on occasion a Puma from one family would join the other, without hostility. That was very interesting to see and photograph.


The guanacos walked quite close to the Pumas, but they didn't charge.

Although we didn't witness an actual take-down we did have a hunt that resulted in one of our favorite encounters (the image at the top of the page). Two Guanacos walked straight up a hill almost directly to a Puma with two full-grown young and we thought a kill was a certainty. Instead, the Pumas waited until the Guanacos walked some distance away to begin to stalk, slinking along the ground as they followed, but doing so too late to catch their prey. The male, the cat on the right in the image at the top of the page, was bigger than his mother.

We spent four of our five full field days in Puma country, leaving at 4:30AM and remaining in the field until noon, and doing the same in the afternoon, from 4PM until 9PM. Most days, the first hour or so was devoted to finding and getting close to the Pumas, and by mid-morning the cats would settle down to sleep. At that point we looked for other subjects. In the afternoon we usually had a good idea where the cats would be and we'd go directly there, although sometimes we'd have to wait until the cats woke up.

The Puma encounters were so rewarding that on our last afternoon, when we found a single Puma deep down in a valley and resting beneath a bush, we didn't bother even trying to photograph the cat! Had that been on the first day we'd have a long downhill hike (uphill, we would have suffered!), but by the end of the week we had too many good shots that we could be discerning ... or lazy.


Austral Pigmy Owl, American Kestrel

On our first afternoon, when we didn't have a permit to be on the private land, we chose to remain around our lodge and work on birds, with the hope of finding the beautiful Austral Pigmy Owl. We were successful, and had one of the best shooting opportunities I've ever had with this bird.


Chiloe Fox

Mid-week, to give us a break from Pumas and expand our portfolio, we headed into Torres del Paine National Park. In addition to shooting some nice landscapes, soon after beginning our journey we had a spectacular Chiloe Fox. This large fox, sometimes called an Andean Fox or Wolf or Red Fox, is the size of a small coyote and a predator we only rarely see. This one posed wonderfully and stayed with us until it wandered over a bridge to an island where we expect it had its den.



Austral Parakeet, Chilean Flamingo
Great Grebe, Great Horned Owl
White-crested Elania, Andean Condor

At another location we had wonderful Austral Parakeets, and another Chiloe Fox. On another day, White-crested Elanias and the best Great Grebe I've had on any trip, and one day, returning after a morning Puma shoot, a great shooting opportunity with Chilean Flamingos.


The landscapes, of course, are incredible here and we had multiple opportunities. One of the most memorable was on our first morning, when after a dawn rain shower a vivid rainbow formed and, on a nearby ridge, a Guanaco walked into view. Several of us walked up to the Guanaco to frame this mammal against the rainbow, a great start for the trip.




For this river scene I used the OM-1's LIVE ND, which works like a neutral density filter
but you can see the results prior to taking a shot. The Live ND shot is on the left.


We plan on returning in late November of this year, 2023, which will coincide with the birth of Guanacos, the Pumas favorite prey. Bird life will be at its peak so, and Gray Foxes will be denning at this time. A diversity of subjects to complement the incredible Puma photography -- join us!

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