Fauna of Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine National Park is an exceptional place, with diverse microclimates and four types of vegetation: pre-Andean shrubland, Magellanic subpolar forest, Patagonian steppe, and Andean desert.
The hard conditions of Chilean Patagonia allows the area to house wild flora and fauna that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world, although much of it is found far from the trails that are authorized for tourists.
In the Park, you can find more than 120 types of birds, 250 types of plants, and 25 types mammals, all of them protected by the law (destroying the flora, hunting, and fishing are all prohibited within Torres del Paine). The main animals that you may encounter are:
Condor (Vultur gryphus): This magnificent bird, which inhabits the Andes mountains, primarily in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile, can have a wingspan of more than 3 meters. The condor can fly more than 7,000 meters high and glide for prolonged periods of time in order to find food, therefore it is best observed from viewpoints.
Due to their importance, the hunting of condors is strictly prohibited by law. Additionally, there are breeding programs in captivity to increase the population of this symbolic bird of Chile.
Mountain Lion or Puma (Puma concolor): This carniverous feline is one of the largest mammals found in the Americas. This animal is extremely dangerous and territorial, but avoids areas with humans, so attacks are rare.
Since the puma is a predator that gets its food by ambushing its prey, it is recommended that you never turn your back on one in the event of a sighting; instead, back away slowly, make yourself appear taller and more intimidating, throw objects at the animal to scare it off, and never bend down. In the case of an attack, the last option is to punch the puma in the nose, its weak spot.
South Andean Deer or Huemul (Hippocamelus bisulcus): This deer, which is in danger of extinction, inhabits the mountainous regions of Chile and Argentina. It is notable for living in small groups and for the two-pronged antlers of the males. The huemul is extremely difficult to find, due to its reduced population and the fact that it avoids humans and their settlements.
Among the interesting facts about the huemul, it is notable for being, together with the condor, one of the two animals featured on the national shield of Chile. Also, the huemul was declared a Natural Monument of Chile and Argentina and is protected by both countries.
Rhea (Rhea americana): This bird, which is very similar to the African ostrich, can also be seen in Torres del Paine National Park. One of its characteristics is that it travels in large groups in search of the fruits, insects, and reptiles on which it feeds.
The rhea is notable for being one of the fastest land animals in the world, reaching up to 80 km per hour when running in a straight line. Because of this, it is recommended that this bird be viewed from a distance.
Andes Skunk or Chingue (Conepatus chinga): This animal is easy to identify by its small size, black fur, and the white stripe that runs from its head to its tail. Due to the smell of the liquid that it sprays as a method of defense, we recommend that you stay as far away as possible.
Spectacled Duck (Anas specularis): This migratory bird can be found in Araucanía and Patagonia during the warmer months, but in the winter it travels to the centers of Chile and Argentina. The name of this omniverous bird is due to the semi-circles below its eyes, which look like spectacles. The spectacled duck can be found in rivers and lakes, as it never ventures into dry areas or open fields.
Ringed Kingfisher (Megaceryle torquata stellata): In Torres del Paine National Park, you can see this subspecies of kinfisher, which inhabits Patagonia. It is notable for its blue color, red breast, and the white line around its neck from which it gets its name.
Guanaco (Lama guanicoe): This herbivorous animal is typical of South America and belongs to the camelid family, which includes llamas, vicuñas, and alpacas, which can be seen in northern Chile.
These animals are abundant in Torres del Paine National Park, but they are timid. Therefore, it is recommended that they be viewed from a respectful distance. Their principal characteristic is their speed: guanacos can run faster than 60 km per hour to avoid predators.
Rufous-Collared Sparrow (Zonotrichia capensis): It inhabits all of South America and can be seen as often in a city as in a forest. It is recognized by its brown color and white, red, and black patches, although its primary characteristic is the male´s song.
South American Gray Fox or Chilla (Lycalopex griseus): One of the many species of fox that inhabit Chile (Chilean Patagonia in particular), as well as Argentina and Uruguay. On average, it measures 50 cm in length and weighs less than 5 kg. Therefore, it feeds on rodents, carrion, birds, small reptiles, and hares.