NEW HOPE FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHER (3 of 6) | Saved by ranching | As the sun rises across Buck Island Ranch near Lake Placid in central Florida, three modern-day cowboys round up a herd of historic ‘cracker’ cattle – descendants of the cattle brought from Spain to Florida in the early 1500s. With cattle ranches occupying almost a sixth of Florida’s landmass – and with most of the unprotected lands in the Florida Wildlife Corridor – the recovery of the Florida panther depends largely on the preservation of these ranches. But as suburban sprawl encroaches, the price of land increases and many ranches are being sold to housing developers, cutting off essential panther habit along the wildlife corridor. Fortunately there are research ranches such as Buck Island Ranch that undertake long-term studies to attest to the benefits of the low-density cattle ranches in this region, from cleaning water in the Everglades watershed to increasing carbon sequestration (capturing and storing atmospheric carbon dioxide) in the semi-native pasture grazed by cattle. It is important to highlight the value of these traditional ranches, says Carlton, who sees them as part of the solution for protecting wild Florida. On exhibit at @natural_history_museum in London @nhm_wpy#WPY55@natgeo@insidenatgeo@ilcp_photographers@pathofthepanther@flcattlemen@ilcp_photographers#FloridaWild#KeepFLWild
NEW HOPE FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHER (2 of 6) | Squeezed by sprawl | Viewed from the air, suburban housing on the eastern fringe of Naples in southwest Florida encroaches on prime panther habitat. As one of the fastest-growing states in the United States – and currently the third most populous – Florida is losing more than 40,470 hectares (100,000 acres) of rural and natural habitat each year to accommodate the influx of people moving to the state (estimated to be a million people every three years). The statewide Florida Wildlife Corridor – a network of public and private land that supports wildlife – offers a path to recovery for the endangered Florida panther. But, says Carlton, if suburban development continues unchecked, most of the missing links in the corridor will be lost and the big cats’ stronghold in southern Florida will be permanently cut off from the rest of the state and country. ‘There is little hope for the recovery of the Florida panther without more land conservation,’ says Carlton. On exhibit at @natural_history_museum in London @nhm_wpy#WPY55@natgeo@insidenatgeo@ilcp_photographers@pathofthepanther@ilcp_photographers#FloridaWild#KeepFLWild | Flight provides by @lighthawk_org
NEW HOPE FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHER (5 of 6) | Family rescue | Veterinarians and staff from White Oak Conservation carry two anaesthetized male Florida panther kittens into a clinic for pre-release check-ups. Four months earlier, their mother – known by her radio-tracking collar number as FP224 – was found on the side of a road near Naples with a broken hind leg after being struck by a vehicle. As one of only a few panthers wearing a tracking collar, state biologists knew that she had recently given birth to three kittens. Aware that the youngsters would not survive alone while their mother was being treated, the team managed to trap two of the three kittens. The pair were then transferred to a rehabilitation center, where they were eventually reunited with their mother once she had recovered from surgery. Following the story, Carlton witnessed the first time that a Florida panther family had been rescued, rehabilitated and released back into the wild together. On exhibit at @natural_history_museum in London @nhm_wpy#WPY55@natgeo@insidenatgeo@ilcp_photographers@pathofthepanther#FloridaWild#KeepFLWild@myfwc@whiteoakconservation
Photo by Carlton Ward Jr. @carltonward | This is Walter, a six-year-old Florida panther living at ZooTampa. He was rescued in 2017 by @MyFWC biologists and veterinarians from Highlands County, where his front left foot had been caught in a snare that cut into his bones and nearly killed him. At @zootampa he underwent a series of surgeries and a partial amputation that saved his life. Unable to be returned to the wild, Walter was given a permanent home at ZooTampa, and he was named after a donor who was inspired to invest in the veterinary facilities to help Walter and other Florida panthers. Walter is now an ambassador at ZooTampa, where his story can inspire nearly one million annual visitors and where 13 Florida panthers have been rescued and rehabilitated since 1988. I am working with dedicated conservationists at ZooTampa and other Florida zoos to use my #PathofthePanther project with @insidenatgeo to help protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor. I captured this portrait with a lucky 1/10-second handheld exposure, focusing through the steel mesh of his enclosure with a telephoto lens. @pathofthepanther@FL_wildcorridor#FloridaWild#Panther#KeepFLWild.
Photo by @carltonward | A late summer sunrise colors a cypress dome and sawgrass prairie on a working ranch adjacent to Big Cypress National Preserve. In South Florida, nearly four million acres of contiguous public land are rooted in the wilderness areas of Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. This is a western scale conservation landscape hidden in the east, where the endangered Florida panther has staged its recovery. But the fate of panthers and other wide ranging wildlife depends on private lands as much as public preserves. The 17-million-acre Florida Wildlife Corridor still provides a lifeline connecting the Everglades to its headwaters near Orlando and Georgia and Alabama beyond. But this corridor is only 60 percent protected and without more investment in conservation, Florida's impressive network of state and national parks and recreation lands will be broken apart by development, to the demise of wildlife and water on which we all depend. Thankfully there's still time to keep wild Florida connected and in doing so keep the Everglades from being cut off from the rest of America. Ranches like the one pictured, owned by Ron Bergeron, give me hope. @pathofthepanther#keepflwild@bigcypressnps@fl_wildcorridor
[Expedition launch - 6 days] Looking at the Florida 2070 maps, we can see that panthers need ranch land to survive, and ranchers, facing relentless development, need panthers so that policy makers will be moved to adequately fund conservation of the ranchers’ land. During the #RanchtoRidge Expedition, we’ll explore these connections - between ranchers, conservationists and panthers - and reveal a shared vision to keep Florida wild.
Please support our upcoming expedition and film: https://bit.ly/2OMIi0d 👈🏽 Link in bio!
Hey, I see you over deer!
We know you may be quite fawn'd of charming animals like our native white-tailed deer, we are too! All the more reason to make sure that you're using the "rule of thumb" while observing similar wildlife.
The rule of thumb is easy. Stick out your arm all the way straight, put your thumb up, and cover one eye. If you can cover the animal entirely with your thumb, then you are at a safe distance. If you cannot cover the animal with your thumb, you need to step back and give it more space.
Another way to determine if you are at a safe distance is to pay close attention to an animal's behavior. If an animal notices you and changes its behavior because of your presence, then you are too close.
Enjoying the rare opportunity to view a wild animal in its natural habitat is just one of the many reasons people love national parks. But it's important not to let your excitement get the best of you and to keep your distance. Not just for your safety, but for theirs too! Getting too close to wildlife like white-tailed deer can stress the animal and, in turn, interfere with their natural behavior.
All wildlife in national parks are protected by federal law and violation of this can result in a fine.
Photo by Alan C Egan @alancegan#KeepWildlifeWild#KeepFLWild#WildFlorida#AmericasEverglades#EvergladesNationalPark#Everglades#SouthFlorida#RuleOfThumb#Deer#WhiteTailedDeer#Fawn#Mammals#EvergladesWildlife
I am grateful to be in London to receive an award in the 2019 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition. My Florida panther story will be recognized as Highly Commended (2nd place) in the Wildlife Photojournalism category during the awards ceremony Tuesday night and six photographs will be displayed together in the the @nhm_wpy exhibit opening Friday and traveling throughout six continents in the coming year. I very much appreciate the recognition and platform to share wild Florida with the world. Now I get to share the six winning photographs from my story with you, including the intro and captions from the exhibit. NEW HOPE FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHER | The Florida panther – a subspecies of puma – once roamed throughout the southeastern United States, but hunting and habitat loss reduced it to a single breeding population isolated in southern Florida. Carlton Ward, founder of the FL Wildlife Corridor campaign, has spent years documenting the recovery of this endangered big cat, now threatened by suburban development and vehicle collisions. Though the population has increased over the past few decades to about 230 adults, there needs to be more than 600 distributed throughout Florida to give the subspecies a chance of recovery. And that means a new breeding population north of the Caloosahatchee River. | A male Florida panther leaps over a creek in the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge on the northwestern edge of the Everglades – the subspecies’ last refuge. With the help of scientists, Carlton identified panther trails in the swamp forest and then built sophisticated camera traps that could withstand the subtropical wet environment and react to a fast-moving subject. But with males patrolling a range of up to 518 square kilometres (200 square miles), he was lucky if a panther passed by a camera once a month. And even then, they usually did so at night. There were also the problems of malfunctioning equipment and cameras lost to wildfires and then to Hurricane Irma. So to capture this one and only daylight image took Carlton nearly two years. | #wpy55@natgeo@insidenatgeo@ilcp_photographers#keepflwild#floridapanther#puma#florida