We truly believe that come to Patagonia National Park is an adventure in the Patagonia as you have always imagined. The statement may sound exaggerated, but when we think about the its environments diversity and flora and fauna we are not overselling.
This is the main conservation project in Chile and Argentina where private and public initiatives are protecting 790,000 acres (320,000 hectares) between the two countries. And due to of the remoteness of some areas and the regeneration projects, carried out by public and private organizations, visit the park is like to stepping back a century. before the settlement of the pioneers and the operations cattle ranches in Patagonia.
This diversity of habitat provides a critical area rich in fauna such as huemul, puma, guanaco, condor and ñandú, among other felines, armadillos and many…many birds. So we will explain where to see some of them:
Huemul Chilean biggest deer
Huemul (Hippocamelus Bisulcus and pronounced “way-mool”) is an Andean deer that grazes in the forest. It is a part of Chile’s coat-of-arms. There it appears with the Andean Condor with the motto “Por La Fuerza o La Razón” (By Strength or Reason) what says a lot about Chileans way of being. During the last years private and public organizations have carried successful efforts to recover this specie threatened with extinction. And that efforts are related with the creations of National Parks, mainly in Patagonia.
The males are bigger in size and weight than females, they reaches close to a 1.6 metters (5′) in the largest specimens, and weighs 70 to 90 kg (160lbs). They have a pair of simple, two-pointed antlers, whose posterior branch can reach up to 30 cm long. With a stockier body and legs they can navigate rugged terrain.
Sighting a huemul is something special, its protection mechanisms is to stand and still, mimicking in a very successful way with the forest. Coming to Patagonia National Park in summer there is a big chance to see one of them in Ibañez Pass, Just besides the road in Cerro Castillo National Park. You will see cars moving slowly or parked when the people spot one. In the Park there are families in the northern area, sometimes just in Jenimeni Lake entrance. We have seen them several times during our treks. Another well known spot is at the very south of the park close to Cochrane in Tamango Area. Even evey year there is an event called “La Ruta del Huemul”, where people in invited to walk from Cochrane to Chacabuco Valley.
Condor (Vultur gryphus) is the national bird of Chile and part of its coat-of-arms. It is protected in this country by the Wildlife Conservation Law. The main threat that affects the Andean condor is the consumption of toxic baits, an illegal practice used to control predatory species. Sad, because condors are scavengers – giant vultures picking the carcasses of dead animals – rather than birds of prey.
The Andean condor is the largest flying birds of earth, with a massive 3m (10’) wingspan and weight of 15 kg (33 lbs). Bald-headed, black, with distinctive white feathery on the tip of the wings, they can live to be70 years old. This bird lives around the mountains, but also near the coasts, where sea breezes and thermal air currents, can help with its glide.
In Patagonia National Park you have a great chance to see them flying really close to you, on your way to the entrance in Jeinimeni Lake. The road ascend a canyon where the condor flies round besides many birds. Inside the northern area of the park there are several nests (condoreras) in the hills surrounding Lago Jeinimeni and Lago Verde, that you can see from La Gloria Pass. The same in Chacabuco Valley in the southern area of the park.4
One of the highlight that you can have in Patagonia are the breathtaking scenes of Guanacos Herds running through the now protected and abundant Patagonian steppe grasslands of Valle Chacabuco, in the southern section of Patagonia National Park. As it was before in the steppes of all this territory. Priot to the settlement of ranches that make them to compete with sheeps for food.
Guanaco (Lama Guanicoe) is the wild relative of the domestic llama and alpaca. It is the largest camelid South America (though without a hump!). An animal with fine bones, with an approximate height of 1.60 meters (5’) and a weight of about 90 kilograms (almost 200 lbs). Capable of running up to 55 km/h (35 mph), the guanaco has evolved to escape from the puma in open landscapes.
In Patagonia Park, northern area, you can spot these caramel colored animals in large herds at an altitude usually when you hike in Valle Lunar or driving to the entrance in Jeinimeni Lake. But the show is in Chacabuco Valley.
The southern puma or mountain lion (Puma concolor puma) is the southernmost of the subspecies into which the species of Puma concolor is divided, commonly called “puma” or “American lion”.
Long-bodied, with dense dark grayish or brownish fur, with a huge skull and large teeth. Those that inhabit the Patagonian steppes have reached a weight of 120 kg (265 lbs) and a total length of 2.7 meters (almost 9’), making it probably the largest subspecies in South America.
Puma has flourished within the national parks due to their protected status and the amount of prey accessible to them. Whether it be huemul in the forest or guanacos, hares and even Ñandú (rheas) in the steppe. But they are a master of camouflage, and very difficult to spot beyond Torres del Paine National Park, where they simply walk along the side of the road.
In Patagonia National Park, there is a family living at the entrance in Jeinimeni Lake, so if you are a little bit lucky you will be able to see them. And there are many in Chacabuco Valley and people report seeing them in the Casa de Piedra area.
Ñandú or Choique
Ñandú (Rhea) is the flightless bird that lives in the high-altitude grasslands of Patagonia. It is the South American cousin of the ostrich and the emu. It is smaller than them, between 1.50 and 1.80 meters tall (4′ and the female is a little smaller). Another difference is the presence of three toes on each foot while the ostrich only has two.
It is a beautiful bird especially when they are running, being able to exceed 80 kilometers per hour (50 mph). And it has the ability to change direction abruptly while running, which he frequently uses as an evasive maneuver.
In Patagonia National Park you can get up close and almost touch them in Los Toldos Area, close to Río Pinturas in Argentina, where they are called Choique. In Chile, a new flock was reintroduced during 2020 in Chacabuco Valley, in an attempt to bring the species back from the brink of extinction. In the last years, the park’s ñandú population has multiplied, undoubtedly making it the best place to see these unique birds specially in the Chacabuco valley close to the border.
Chinchillón – Vizcacha
Chichillón (Lagidium wolffsohni), sometimes translated as ‘bunny-squirrel’, is an agile mammal that looks like a large rabbit that lives on the cliff. Reddish-gray in color and blending in well with their mountainous habitat, these large rodents are endemic to South America and live in colonies.
In The Patagonia National Park it is possible to see them in the rocks of Valle Lunar and mainly in el Cañadón del Río Pinturas in Argentina, where a trail that bears their name crosses the canyon from the north to la Cueva de las Manos, where you can almost certainly see them.
The Flamingo Austral (Phoenicopterus chilensis) is a bird of 1.10 to 1.30 m high (4’), with light pink plumage, with some darker areas near the tail and yellow eyes.
These graceful stilt-legged birds inhabit the lakes and lagoons of Parque Nacional Patagonia. If you drive to Jeinimeni lake entrance in the northern area, you will pass through a protected piece of still water with the name of Flamingos’ Lagoon, wher youcan see them togeteher with various birds. In addition to Chacabuco Valley toward the border with Argentina, you can see them in large numbers at Laguna Seca.
Culpeo and Gray Fox
The culpeo fox or red fox (Lycalopex culpaeus) twice the size of the Chilla or Gray fox (Lycalopex griseus) are flourishing within the national parks due to their protected status and the amount of prey accessible to them. Outside they usually attack flocks of sheep, which is why they are sadly persecuted.
These beautiful and quite smart animals in their movements and hunting techniques, are spread all over the steppes, high plateaus and grasslands of Patagonia National Park. Usually running away or hiding from your car or preying on hares, rodents and birds….
The Macá Tobiano (Podiceps gallardoi) is the object of conservation and symbol of Patagonia National Park in Argentina, because It reproduces only in the lagoons on the high of Buenos Aires plateau in the Park. Where the tobiano has a spectacular courtship.
They are a waterfowl from a family that dives in search of food or as evasive behavior. Quite gregarious, they fly little and need long runs to take flight, they walk (rarely) on land.
During spring and summer, the Tobiano lives and build floating nests on the lagoons of Buenos Aires Plateau, but when the winter season arrives, those lagoons freeze, so the species migrates to the estuaries of Santa Cruz River in the Atlantic Ocean.
Huge efforts are being made to preserve the Tobiano. If you go up to the plateau you will even see wildlife rangers and volunteers camping next to the lagoons and even traps far away on Pinturas River to capture American mink which it is the biggest threat to this beautiful bird.