From the corner of your eye the pampas cat looks a like regular house cat out for a stroll. Approximately 11-14 inches tall and with brown, grey, or rust colored fur, the pampas’ general size and coloring might not raise any flags. However, look a bit closer and you will notice its especially wide face, large pointed ears, a short tail (about half the length of its body) and distinctive rings and lines around its limbs—your first clues that you are looking at rare and wild animal. Due to its extensive range of habitat, different pampas populations exhibit diverse colors, patterns, and features. Some pampas cats exhibit patterns similar to a leopard or jaguar; others are simply grey and brown speckled, while still others have black lines above their mouths and ears. Other distinctive features include the animal’s long dorsal mane, which extends down its back. Primarily due to declining habitat, the pampas has been designated as Near Threatened on the IUCN redlist. Sightings of the cat are so rare in the Aysén region that there is not enough data to give them a regional designation.
The pampas cat, also known as the colocolo, is named for its habitat—the flat, fertile plains between the Atlantic Ocean and the Andes Mountains that are dominated by bunch grasses, shrubs, and small trees. Populations of pampas spread the length of the Andes through Chile, Argentina, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, and Bolivia. These cats feed on the small mammals and birds that live in their specific grassland habitat. The features of these populations vary so much that some scientists have divided the pampas into three subspecies or geographic variations.
Though few pampas cats have been spotted at Patagonia Park, our camera traps and a few lucky park wardens have capture some of the best shots ever captured of the elusive pampas in this region. The first pampas recorded at Patagonia Park was captured via camera trap in December 2013. Though they are believed to be nocturnal, our camera traps and park wardens have managed to capture a few images of these special cats in the daylight. The pampas is one of three known cats to inhabit Patagonia Park, sharing habitat with Geoffroy’s cat as well as puma.