After settling down in the historic city of Cuenca, we finally went to
our camp site high (above 3500 meters!) in the paramo of the Andes to begin
our research project. We are working with our local Ecuadorian partner,
Fundacion Cordillera Tropical, to camera trap Margays and Oncillas. These
two secretive cats have not been known to exist at the elevation that we are
working in so it would be a groundbreaking discovery that we would be a part
of! I sprained my ankle as we began the camera trap projects so I was bummed
that I could not help us as much.

We were in for quite a surprise on the third day of camera trapping.
That evening we learned that a Puma killed five alpacas in the morning. A
young man who helps us out, Raul, suggested that we take one of the Alpacas
and cook some of the meat. This was extremely exciting news since I am a big
meat lover and most of dishes had been vegeterian for most of the week.

As the sun began to fall
over the Andean mountains and the weather began to get chilly we hiked over
to the site of the dead camelids. Seth walked further ahead and began to
scan the area with his headlamp. He suddenly stood still and screamed, “Hey
guys, Puma!!!!” By this time, it was almost completely dark. I ran over to
where he was standing and also began to wave my headlamp. Immediatly I saw
the Puma´s eyes looking directly at Seth and I. Here I was 100 feet from a
cat that had killed five alpacas earlier and could easily kill me. It was
probably the most wild experience of my life following the time when I
pulled out an anaconda from the Amazons just five weeks ago. It then
disappeared with all the commotion we were making. We stayed for an hour
more in the chilly paramo hoping it would come back. It never did but that
night I went to bed extremely scared but also excited that I had seen such a
rare cat.

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