2021 Photo Contest, Nature, 2nd Prize

Path of the Panther


Carlton Ward Jr.

06 April, 2020

A female Florida panther creeps through a fence between Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and an adjacent cattle ranch, in Naples, Florida, USA. Her kitten trails behind her.

The Florida panther is a subspecies of Puma concolor (also known as mountain lion, cougar, or puma) and, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, represents the only known breeding population of puma in the eastern United States. 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. Florida panthers feed primarily on white-tailed deer and wild hogs, but also smaller mammals such as raccoons, armadillos, and rabbits. Ranches are vital to panthers, because few public lands are big enough to support even one adult male panther, which may require up to 500 square kilometers of territory in which to roam and hunt. Audubon’s Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary is too small to supply the full territory needs of one panther, yet serves as part of the home range for several. 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.

About the photographer

Carlton Ward Jr.

Carlton Ward Jr. is a conservation photographer and National Geographic Explorer from Florida, United States. He uses photography to inspire appreciation and protection of h...

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