Punalka (or Punalca) is a mythical Mapuche creature. It adopts different shapes, perhaps due to local variations in the myth. It may also vary its shape because the natives applied the same name to different kinds of creatures.
Meaning of Punalka
Punalka is an evil spirit whose name in Mapuche language (Mapudungun ) means alka = body, and pun = night; that is: "body of the night".
It was usually applied to ghouls that lived in or by small water bodies such as ponds or watering holes.
Bio Bio River had its own spirit a "Punalka", which was its owner or gen-ko (See my post on the Bio Bio "reptile" Here). It has been seen at Callaqui "transformed into a great serpent that slid downstream in a "wiño". Wiño or chueca is a curved club that is very similar to a hockey stick and used in the Mapuche chueca game.
Punalka in this myth may actually be the Bio Bio River reptile, described above as a snake.
Wild dog (wolf?) Punalka
There was however another variety, the "punalka dog", which was a "wild dog that lived in isolation in a "chenque"[*] and moved about in the mountains". In this myth, it is a big black dog which takes a young maiden as his wife. She gradually morphs into a she-wolf. They have puppies.
[*] Chenque. In this book quoted here, it is a cave.
Terrestrial wild dogs were reported by Gregorio Alvarez as "wild trehua" in the area close to Lake Lacar. Trehua is the Mapuche word for dog. These were vicious beings (akin to the puma and wild boars).
Could this be the Andean Wolf? Below is a photograph of the only known pelt belonging to an Andean wolf (notice its black color. Dark, like a Punalka):
In a previous post (Here) we mentioned the trehuaco or "water dog"; it seems that threhuaco and Punalka are two different beings.
 Barreto, Oscar. (1996). Fenomenología de la religiosidad mapuche. Editorial Abya Yala. pp. 28
 Informe de la Comisión Verdad Histórica y Nuevo Trato 2003. Vol.III, Tomo. II. Primera parte del informe final de la Comision de Trabajo Autónomo Mapuche
Capitulo III. Fundamentos y Manifestaciones del Derecho Propio Mapuche. Part 2.3.1.
 Fundación Pehuén, (2000). Relatos del hombre y la naturaleza. Epeu ngutram-che ka taiñ mapu-meo (in Spanish and Mapudungun). Santiago: Endesa. Vol 1. pp.13
 Alvarez, G., (1969). Donde estuvo el Paraíso. Ed. Pehuén. pp.144.
 Shuker, K., (2009). South American Mystery Beasts. Part 1.
Copyright 2009 by Austin Whittall ©