Photojournalist Paul Gains heads from his native Canada
to the wilds of Patagonia on the hunt for the elusive puma
atagonia had beckoned me for
some time and the opportunity
to see pumas in the wild had
slowly become an
Yes, ‘puma concolor’ reside
in Canada too – they are
called cougars – but in the
sparsely populated areas of
southern Chile, where there
are no grizzly bears or wolves
to compete with, they are certainly
the apex predator.
So in December I flew to Punta Arenas,
the southernmost city in Chile, and
embarked on my mission. The trip yielded
pleasing images of pumas and some of the
species they share this harsh but beautiful
landscape with, including Andean condors,
Patagonian grey foxes and guanacos. It was
another step in what I see as my evolution.
Journalism has changed dramatically
over the 30-plus years I have been involved,
and whereas I was once almost exclusively
a sports writer – I have covered five
summer Olympic Games – in the past
decade I have discovered a way to explore
my passion for wildlife conservation.
Following the 2016 Rio Olympics – where
I worked for CBC Television – I couldn’t wait
to get out of the city and into the Brazilian
Pantanal. There I photographed jaguars,
caimans and giant river otters along the
Cuiabá River in a place called Porto Jofre.
A trip across Ethiopia’s Simien mountains
in 2017 provided memorable experiences
with several endangered and threatened
species: the walia ibex, Ethiopian wolf and
lammergeier. Along with images of Alaskan
brown bears, bald eagles, whales and
snowy owls, I’m slowly gathering images for
a book I’d like to publish in the near future.
On the trail again
I was of no false illusion that tracking pumas
in Patagonia would be physically easy and,
given the fact I became a grandfather in
October, I figured I had better do this while
I’m still able. It helped that The Herald
newspaper in Glasgow commissioned a
piece, and a Canadian lifestyle magazine
also expressed interest in a feature.
Rex Bryngelson, owner of Patagonia
Photo, took care of everything on the
ground, securing five days’ accommodation
and meals at a private ranch (Estancia
Laguna Amarga), just outside Torres Del
Paine national park. Most importantly, he
also hired perhaps the best puma tracker in
Chilean Patagonia – Roberto Donas. Each
morning the three of us loaded our gear
into Roberto’s all-wheel-drive Mitsubishi
at 4.30am and we set out.
I have been a Nikon shooter since 2012.
The Nikon D500 is my go-to camera, as it’s
great in low light and shoots a rapid 10fps.
December in Patagonia is the start of
summer, with about 17 hours of daylight,
and I needed a camera like the D500.
These days I also travel with the Nikon
D7000. For wildlife I have been using the
A herd of guanacos slowly
moved uphill towards her.
I was in perfect position
when she struck
A female puma sprints
after a herd of guanacos,
oblivious to Paul’s presence.