As wildness returns to this vast area, the populations of keystone species are finding a new equilibrium. With livestock almost gone, grasslands are producing more and better-quality food for a range of wild herbivores. For the first time in decades, wild animals such as huemul deer and guanaco have access to prime habitat. We have monitored endangered and threatened species during this transition and are actively developing strategies for recovering diminished populations.
The huemul deer, a flagship species in Chile but critically endangered, is a top priority for the Patagonia National Park project. In parallel, we are tracking and monitoring pumas with GPS collars in order to uncover new information about their predation patterns, home ranges, and movements—critical data given their proximity to the threatened huemul. Simultaneously, we are developing strategies, such as utilizing livestock guardian dogs, to prevent predator/livestock conflicts. Many of our neighbors continue to raise livestock, and we seek to demonstrate effective means of protecting domestic animals without shooting predators. In the upcoming years, we will launch wildlife recovery programs focused on other threatened species of Patagonia.
Other threatened species:
Puma Monitoring and Conservation
Since 2008, Conservacion Patagonica’s wildlife team has tracked the park’s pumas with GPS collars to better understand their choice of prey, territory, and interactions with the landscape. This research is particularly important considering the area's recent land-use changes from ranching with more than 25,000 sheep and active predator control to a conservation area with very few domestic animals that forbids puma hunting. The first research project of its kind in the region, very little information about the ecology and behavior of Aysen’s pumas was previously known.
The major changes that have occurred in the area are benefiting pumas. Understanding how pumas interact with other native species (in particular, with endangered huemul) has been among the top priorities for Conservacion Patagonica. Simultaneously, we continue to track how pumas who inhabit the park interact with neighboring livestock operations, a critically important study for the park's relationship with local communities.