The puma is the top carnivore within the unique carnivore community of the northern Patagonia steppe. Pumas were extirpated from most of Patagonia during the last century, due to heavy persecution that accompanied the introduction of sheep and other livestock. Since 1980, the species has made an incredible comeback, and has recovered most of its former range. The recovery of pumas has been more remarkable than that of their principal native prey, the guanaco, and today in much of Patagonia livestock and exotic wildlife form the bulk of the puma diet. Thus, the functional relationship between pumas and guanacos has been lost or altered in most of Patagonia.
Frequent or surplus killing of sheep and goats by pumas can be economically devastating to livestock producers. Because pumas had been so effectively eliminated from the region, in some areas the local people consider them an invasive species since they reappeared in recent years, and have no effective traditional means for preventing predation.
WCS’s goal is to restore the native predator-prey interactions of pumas in the Andean Patagonia Steppe Landscape. We have a successful project using local, mixed-breed dogs to guard small herds of goats from predators. These dogs reduce predation losses as well as decreasing killing of native carnivores by herders. In addition, our work to bolster populations of native prey will contribute to shifting pumas and other carnivores from consumption of livestock to their native prey.