CSI: Puma Country
They call us “wildlife ecologists” but we are crime scene investigators, of sorts. Every day we log new victims, studying their twisted remains for clues about who they were and how they died.
Given the general shape of the remains and our location in the Andes, if the body is large with a dark brown tail or brow, it’s a guanaco. If it’s small and sand-colored, it’s a vicuña.
The shape of the pelvis tells us whether it was male or female; the tooth wear along the bottom jaw gives us its age. The color of the marrow in the thigh bone tells us whether it died fat and strong, or thin and weak. And tell-tale signs on the carcass and all around it—skull punctures, bruising on the neck, blood splatter on the rocks, marks of struggle in the sand—help us name the final cause of death. Almost always, the killer was a puma, lunging claws-first from its hiding place, clamping to the victim’s neck, and holding on until the kicking and the breathing stop.
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