Photograph by Bruce Dale
A Patagonian puma rests in tall grass at the Patagonian Institute in Punta Arenas, Chile. Pumas, known as mountain lions or cougars in North America, are among the most wide-ranging animals in the Americas. Patagonian pumas were once hunted to endangered levels by ranchers protecting sheep flocks, but government protections have helped their numbers rebound.
Photograph by Peter Essick
A trio of horses stands on a wind-whipped plain in Chilean Patagonia. First brought to Patagonia by Spanish settlers, horses have become as much a part of the landscape here as the Andes and the pampas. Gauchos have bred a strong, sure-footed breed called the criollo to herd livestock, and hundreds of these hardy horses now roam wild through the region's prairies and valleys.
Photograph by George Mobley
Magellanic penguins huddle on a rocky ledge on Magdalena Island in Chilean Tierra del Fuego. The island, home to one of Chile's largest Magellanic penguin breeding colonies, is a national nature reserve, and commercial fishing there has been banned to preserve the penguins' food source.
Photograph by Ira Block
A male elephant seal and his pup lounge on a shoreline in Ainsworth Bay, Chile. These charismatic seals with the trunklike nose are common throughout the islands of southern Patagonia. Males can be gargantuan, reaching nearly 20 feet (6 meters) in length and weighing up to 8,800 pounds (4,000 kilograms).
Sea Lions, Tierra del Fuego
Photograph by Ira Block
A group of southern sea lions lazes on a rocky outcrop off Tucker Island in Chilean Tierra del Fuego. Once slaughtered in huge numbers for their oil, these sea lions have benefited from official protections and are no longer a threatened species.
Photograph by Wildlife Conservation Society
A group of guanacos nervously graze a Patagonian field with the Andes Mountains rising in the background. Guanacos, relatives of the now domesticated llama, once inhabited the grasslands and mountains of Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile in the millions. Over-hunting reduced populations dramatically, however, and government protections have been necessary to restore their numbers. They have rebounded well, but are still listed as a vulnerable species.
Photograph by Carsten Peter
A crested caracara surveys a valley on Madre de Dios Island in Chilean Patagonia. These wide-ranging raptors are found in abundance from the southern United States to Tierra del Fuego. Highly opportunistic feeders, caracaras generally prefer carrion to live prey and will frequently filch meals from other birds.
Right Whale Tail
Photograph by Bill Curtsinger
A southern right whale slaps its flukes on the surface of the water off the coast of Argentine Patagonia. Scientists think whales exhibit this behavior, called lobtailing, to visually and acoustically communicate with other whales. Though commercial whaling severely reduced their numbers, international protections have helped the southern right whale recover significantly, particularly in Argentine waters.
2015 Traveler Photo Contest
Do you have what it takes to win? Submit your best shots today and find out.