Mid-January 2010 -- this puma is clearly aware of the camera. It'd be great to be able to tell individual pumas apart, but it is tough without the spotted coat pattern of the jaguar, ocelot, or margay. The notches in the ears and the slight bump in the tail might be defining characteristics ... if the animal is positioned in such a way that they are actually visible in the photo.
Recently I was talking with someone at Chan Chich Lodge who travels between Central America and Africa frequently. She reminded me that for lions in Africa, researchers are photographing their faces and then matching individuals based on the unique whisker pattern on the muzzle. Very ingenious. The great thing about lions is that they are pretty cooperative when they are lolling around in the open savanna. With a long lens and some patience, they can be pretty easily photographed.
You don't come upon a lolling puma too often. And they are much more solitary and secretive. In this photo, you can see the whiskers ... but not a definitive pattern.