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Here is the one useful photo I captured during the panther visit shown in the previous post. It’s more mysterious than I wanted because a bear knocked over the left flash leaving that side her face dark. And further from the camera than I wanted because a bear misaligned the infrared trigger. But at least I got this one shot of a panther walking in the shadow of this 500 year old cypress tree on a ranch beside Big Cypress NP. Image and text by @carltonward . . . #florida #everglades #keepflwild #flwild #floridawild #panther #floridapanther #pathofthepanther #conservation #nature #explore #wilderness

3 days ago 0
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A young Florida panther kitten is handled by @myfwc and @usfws biologists while they tag, measure and vaccinate each member of its litter. Its mother is one of several Florida panthers wearing radio tracking collars to help biologists understand the movements of the species. An additional benefit of collared females is knowing when a mother becomes stationary — evidence she is caring for a den. The biologists working to understand and protect panthers are heroes to me. You can support their work by buying a Save the Panther license plate in Florida. I very much everyone who has supported the @PathofthePanther project! Our team relies your help to stay in the front lines documenting and sharing the story of the Florida panther as an emblem of the statewide Florida Wildlife Corridor we are working to protect. Please consider signing up for our newsletter to add your voice to the cause. Image and text by @carltonward

11 days ago 0
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It’s #GivingTuesday! Support the mission to #KeepFLWild. Make a secure, tax deductible donation to support the work of Path of the Panther at pathofthepanther.com (link in bio) Repost @carltonward: I am grateful for the dedicated women and men who are helping save the Florida panther. Lara Cusack, panther veterinarian with the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission, handles kittens belonging to their mother, FP-224, one of several panthers in Southwest Florida wearing radio collars for research and monitoring. These young cats were measured and given immunity boosters while the mother, who has repeatedly broken bones in vehicle collisions, was away from the den hunting. She is the same panther from my previous post being released with mature kittens from a previous litter. These kittens were both killed by cars but the mother survived to reproduce again. #panthers #flpanthers #keepflwild #conservation #explore #florida #floridawild

12 days ago 0
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NEW HOPE FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHER (6 of 6) | Family discovery | A female panther and her two kittens stroll along a trail at night at Florida’s Babcock Ranch Preserve. Captured by a camera trap in January 2017, this image is important proof that the panther’s breeding range – for decades confined to the southern tip of Florida – has extended north beyond the Caloosahatchee River. Once Carlton had been told by biologists that they had found evidence of a female panther north of the river, he spent more than a year trying to capture visual proof. Male panthers have been spotted throughout Florida and as far north as Georgia, but until now, these roaming males have had no chance of finding a mate. Having swum across the half-kilometre (quarter-mile) wide Caloosahatchee River, this female has managed to breed, and she and her two offspring offer new hope that Florida panthers can cross the river divide naturally and expand their breeding territory northwards. On exhibit at @naturalhistorymuseum

18 days ago 0
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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 @naturalhistorymuseum in London

18 days ago 0
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NEW HOPE FOR THE FLORIDA PANTHER (4 of 6) | Killed by cars | With up to 30 panthers killed each year on Florida’s roads, collisions with vehicles are, after habitat loss, the greatest threat to the Florida panther’s recovery. This young male, probably six months old, was killed on a highway east of Naples in southwest Florida, where rapid development is cutting into the Florida Wildlife Corridor – and where most fatal collisions between vehicles and panthers occur. Here, in the glare of passing headlights, police surround the dead panther, waiting for a state biologist to arrive to collect the body for examination. Roads could be made safer for panthers, says Carlton, with more barrier fences and dedicated wildlife crossings. But too few people know about panthers, and most are unaware of the problem. ‘By showing this grim reality,’ says Carlton, ‘I hope to motivate people to support policies that will invest in the vital infrastructures needed for wildlife and people to coexist better.’ Text and image by @carltonward . . . . . #pathofthepanther #puma #floridapanther #florida #development #keepflwild #floridawild #conservation #bigcat #explore

2 months ago 0
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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. . . . . . . #puma #floridapanther #florida #development #keepflwild #floridawild #conservation #bigcat #explore

2 months ago 0
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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 @naturalhistorymuseum. Text by @carltonward. . . . . . #puma #floridapanther #florida #development #keepflwild #floridawild #conservation #bigcat #explore

2 months ago 0
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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 @nhmwpy 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 @ilcpphotographers #keepflwild #floridapanther #puma #florida

2 months ago 0
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Two Florida panther kittens were stranded when their mother, FP-224, was hit by a car near Naples. Because she was wearing a radio collar, FWC biologists knew the mother had kittens from investigating her den a few months before. They were able to find the kittens near the crash site and the family was rehabilitated at White Oak Conservation Center. Here, the panther family is released in southwestern Florida, with the mother leading the charge and two kittens still waiting in their transport crates. People from left to right: FWC panther biologist Mark Lotz, White Oak Conservation carnivore keeper Karen Meeks, FWC panther vet Lara Cusack. The young panther brothers stayed together briefly but were both killed by cars east of Naples within a year of release. The mother survived to produce another litter (stay tuned for my next post). Vehicle strikes are the leading cause of death for Florida panthers, killing nearly 30 per year. Please see the new National Geographic article by @DouglasMain. Follow @carltonward for more photos showing how the endangered Florida panther can help save the #FloridaWildlifeCorridor. Photo and text by @carltonward . . . . . . . . . #floridawild #pathofthepanther #floridawildlifecorridor #keepflwild #floridapanther #puma #florida #habitatloss #development #floridawildlife #conservation #explore

3 months ago 0
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Wildlife crossings such as this underpass work, but only when you have wide corridors of wildlife habitat on both sides of a road. Please see the new National Geographic story by @douglasmain about how new toll roads and development could block the recovery of the endangered Florida panther. In this photo, which took me nearly two years to capture, a male Florida panther is crossing safely beneath Interstate 75 from Picayune Strand State Forest to Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. This section of I-75 between Naples and Miami cuts through millions of acres of public land and primary panther habitat including Big Cypress National Preserve. Thanks to cross fencing and more than 30 wildlife underpass, there are rarely panthers or other large wildlife killed on the highway. Really only when storms or stray vehicles temporarily break the fences do animals get up on the road. The lesson here is that wildlife crossings work very well and all new roads through the Florida Wildlife Corridor should have them. But even more importantly, we must conserve millions of acres of missing links in the Florida Wildlife Corridor so that there is a connected habitat network for wildlife crossings to support. This camera trap photo is the most technically complicated I’ve attempted. There are 14 camera flashes, 300 yards of cabling, three radio channels, and a laser trigger with a solar panel. The system has suffered wildfires and hurricane floods, and given me and the @pathofthepanther team many headaches, but has also produced photos that would not otherwise be possible. Please read the new @natgeo article and stay tuned for opportunities to help save the Florida Wildlife Corridor. // Photo and text by @carltonward . . . @usfws @myfwc @flwildcorridor @insidenatgeo #pathofthepanther #floridawild #KeepFLWild #cognisys

3 months ago 0
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Vehicle strikes are the leading cause of death for Florida panthers — nearly 30 panthers are killed on roads each year. Here Lara Cusack, panther veterinarian with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, examines a young male panther killed on Collier Boulevard in Naples, where development continues to sprawl east cutting further into primary panther habitat and the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Please see the new National Geographic article by @douglasmain (link in my bio) about how new toll roads threaten to block the recovery of the Florida panther. Learn how landscape scale conservation planning, including wide wildlife habitat corridors and wildlife crossings at roads can help reduce habitat fragmentation and road kills. This photo was from a cold and sad night in 2018 with @grizzlycreekfilms @bendicci @dannyschmidt @3bearsmedia @alexandrajanephoto @myfwc @flwildcorridor // Photo and text by @carltonward . . . . #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild #pathofthepanther

3 months ago 0
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This is my favorite photo from my new National Geographic story about the future of the Florida panther. Please check it out at NationalGeographic.com/animals (link in by bio). Writer @douglasmain explores how new toll roads could block the panther’s path to recovery. I’ve been covering the story of the Florida panther for the past three years using custom-made camera traps through my Path of the Panther project. It took me nearly two years to capture this photo at Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. During that time, the panther came down this trail approximately once per month, every two months facing the camera and only once or twice a year in the daylight. Then the laser triggers, camera and flashes had to work at the exact moment the panther was jumping over the log. This photo was captured in the days leading up to Hurricane Irma, which made landfall near Naples, just 20 miles from this camera site. My entire camera system was destroyed. Two weeks later, when allowed to enter the Panther Refuge, we had to chainsaw our way back to the camera, which we found bobbing in the creek, it’s case full of swamp water. But buried beneath 3,000 false triggers during the hurricane landfall, I found this photo! Here you can see the tenacity and resiliency of the Florida panther — the last puma in the east that has survived to this day because of its ability to persevere in the hurricane battered swamps of the southern Everglades. Here, as few as 20 panthers survived the hunting and persecution that vanquished the species everywhere else east of the Mississippi River, and it’s from these Everglades swamps that the panther has staged its recovery to reclaim its historic territory in the Northern Everglades and beyond. Please follow my work @carltonward and at @pathofthepanther as we use the story of our endangered state animal to inspire protection of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Photo and text by @carltonward . . . . . . . . . . #floridawild #pathofthepanther #floridawildlifecorridor #keepflwild #floridapanther #puma #florida #habitatloss #development #floridawildlife #conservation #explore

3 months ago 0
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Earlier this week leaders from around Florida gathered in Tampa to begin a yearlong process of designing three new toll road corridors through Florida’s least developed wild and rural landscapes — all within the Florida Wildlife Corridor. While some of the environmental impacts of new highways can be mitigated with measures such as wildlife underpasses and fencing to keep animals off of roads, potential damages by roads often go far beyond their physical footprints. Roads can foster development of suburban sprawl, like this new housing complex next to Florida State Road 429 near Orlando. Shot on assignment for @natureorg to illustrate the scale of development in Florida, where the population is currently growing by nearly 1,000 people per day and suburban sprawl is consuming 100,000 acres of wildlife habitat per year. Population and development studies have projected that 5 million acres and most of the missing links in the Florida Wildlife Corridor will be lost in the next 50 years unless major investments in land conservation help steer development closer to existing urban cores. Two panthers have been killed on Interstate 4 within a mile of this new housing complex. While wildlife crossings and cross fencing could have prevented the panther deaths, irreversible loss of habitat corridors on either side of I-4 and nearby roads is even more concerning. My view is that we should not be investing in major new road corridors without first having a robust plan to protect the statewide Florida Wildlife Corridor. The future of wild Florida depends on finding this balance. @flwildcorridor @1000friendsofflorida // Photo and text by @carltonward . . . . . . . . . . #floridawild #pathofthepanther #floridawildlifecorridor #keepflwild #floridapanther #puma #florida #habitatloss #development #floridawildlife #conservation #explore

4 months ago 0
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The Lightsey family and crew drive a herd of cattle across Otter Slough with Lake Kissimmee in the background. They gathered these cattle from 2.500 acres of native land with no cross fences. In addition to supporting rural heritage and nationally significant wetlands, ranches in the Northern Everglades protect the next frontier in the northward recovery of the endangered Florida panther. Photo by @CarltonWard. . . . . . . #everglades #ranch #water #kissimmee #pathofthepanther #floridawild #KeepFLWild  #floridawildlifecorridor #floridapanther #puma #florida #habitatloss #development #floridawildlife #conservation #explore #cattlemen #cowboys #showyourpassion @flcattlemen

4 months ago 0
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Legendary Florida rancher and conservation hero Cary Lightsey. "The panther is going to have to help us save Florida." That's what Cary told me in November 2016, when @myfwc biolgists produced photos and tracks of the first female Florida panther documented north of the Caloosahatchee River in nearly 50 years. I was writing an article for the Tampa Bay Times and had called Cary to get his perspective about the panther’s breeding population showing the first signs of recovering out of South Florida into its historic range in Northern Everglades — the area between Lake Okeechobee and Orlando where the Lightseys have been raising cattle for 150 years. Cary's hope for the panther comes from his understanding that with ever expanding suburban sprawl that both the Florida rancher and Florida panther are endangered species, and that the story of the wide ranging panther, with an individual having an home range of up to 200 square miles, might be our best hope for inspire lawmakers to invest in land conservation programs that can save a future for ranchers, panther and all of the other threatened and endangered species that depend on their shared territories. Lightsey leads by example. By working with dozens of agencies and environmental organizations, his family has permanently protected nearly 90 percent their ranches by conservation easements. That’s tens of thousands of acres of habitat that are critical linkages in the statewide Florida Wildlife Corridor and wetlands that are slowly filtering water to cleanse the Everglades. Moreover, the Lightseys have inspired other ranchers, including some in my own family, to work with conservation organizations to protect their lands. There are now ranchers representing more than a million acres of vital habitat waiting in line to receive funding for conservation easements through programs such as Florida Forever. The problem is that lawmakers are not funding these priorities. @flwildcorridor @flcattlemen Photo and text by @CarltonWard. . . . . . #florida #conservation #floridawild #keepflwild #explore #nature #ranching #cattlemen #cowboys #everglades #panther #floridapanther #pathofthepanther

4 months ago 0
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This young male Florida panther, still showing spots on his rear legs, triggers a camera trap on Babcock Ranch. It is possible that he swam across the Caloosahatchee River himself, or that he was born north of the river as part of the first generation of panthers documented is in this region in more than 40 years. Whether or not there will be enough land for panthers to continue their northward recovery in now up to us. If we can protect the Path of the Panther, we can ultimately save Florida, for wildlife and ourselves. Photo by @CarltonWard. . . . . . #floridawild #pathofthepanther #floridawildlifecorridor #keepflwild #floridapanther #puma #florida #habitatloss #development #floridawildlife #conservation #explore

4 months ago 0
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The Florida panther can inspire a statewide and global movement to save wild Florida, but only if we can share its story. With the help of the National Geographic Society @insidenatgeo and numerous partners, including the Florida Wildlife Corridor organization @flwildcorridor , our team has been working full time on this project for nearly three years. Because the Florida panther is one of the rarest and most elusive animals on Earth, custom-made camera traps are necessary to reveal their behavior in the wild. Our field team continues to capture unprecedented photos and videos of panthers in the wild and build essential content for the Path of the Panther communications campaign, including working with Grizzly Creek Films @grizzlycreekfilms toward the first feature documentary film ever made about the Florida panther. By sharing this story, we are on a mission to inspire our neighbors and policymakers to protect wild Florida. Photos by @CarltonWard. . . . . . #floridawild #pathofthepanther #floridawildlifecorridor #keepflwild #floridapanther #puma #florida #habitatloss #development #floridawildlife #conservation #explore

4 months ago 0
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