2nd Prize Singles, Nature

06 April 2020

Carlton Ward Jr., United States

Path of the Panther

A female Florida panther creeps through a fence between Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and an adjacent cattle ranch, in Naples, Florida, USA, 6 April. The Florida panther is a subspecies of Puma concolor (also known as mountain lion, cougar, or puma). Listed as an endangered species in 1967, Florida panthers are gradually making a comeback, growing from fewer than 20 panthers in the 1970s, to more than 200 today. Ranches are vital to panthers, because few public lands are big enough to support even one adult male, which may require up to 500 square kilometers of territory in which to roam and hunt. The panthers are caught in a race between the need for territory, and increasing land development as a result of Florida’s rapidly growing population, with some 400 square kilometers of their habitat being lost each year.

The photographer has captured a moment in nature that would only be possible with a camera trap and an enormous investment of time. They have photographed a ghost, an animal you could spend a lifetime hoping to see. And, by placing the camera trap in a pasture, ensuring that the panther has to cross through the barbed wire, they bring together the challenges the cat faces as it navigates a human-altered landscape. Most photographs are made in the moment; this image took months.

Kathy Moran, General Jury member