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Carlton Ward Jr

@NatGeo Photographer | Current story: How the Florida panther can help save Florida | @FL_WildCorridor

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Carlton Ward Jr (@carltonward) Instagram photos and videos

List of Instagram medias taken by Carlton Ward Jr (@carltonward)

Sunrise last week over Big Cypress National Preserve seen from Green Glades West Ranch. @pathofthepanther @alligatorronbergeron @bigcypressnps @fl_wildcorridor

ZooTampa at Lowry Park

This is Walter, a nearly 6-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. He was brought to ZooTampa, where 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, where he was named after a donor who Walter inspired to invest in the veterinary facilities to help Walter and other Florida panthers in the future. Walter, who you can see at ZooTampa, is now an ambassador in a place where he can inspire nearly one million annual visitors about the challenges his species faces in the wild. Since 1988, 13 Florida panthers have been rescued and rehabilitated at ZooTampa, where I am on the board of directors and working with their dedicated conservationists to use the Path of the Panther project to help inspire appreciation and protection of the Florida Wildlife Corridor. I captured this portrait last week with a lucky 1/10 sec handheld exposure focusing through the steel mesh of his enclosure with a telephoto lens. @pathofthepanther @FL_wildcorridor .

Collier County, Florida

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. Please see the new National Geographic article by @Douglas_Main (link in my bio) for more of the story. Please follow me and @pathofthepanther for more photos showing how the endangered Florida panther can help save the . @fl_wildcorridor @MyFWC @insidenatgeo @ilcp_photographers.

Picayune Strand State Forest

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 @Douglas_Main at (link in my bio). Follow me and @pathofthepanther for more photos showing how the endangered Florida panther can help save the . @MyFWC .

Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge

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 @douglas_main (link in my bio) 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. @usfws @myfwc @fl_wildcorridor @insidenatgeo

Naples, Florida

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 @douglas_main (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 @danny_schmidt @3bearsmedia @alexandrajanephoto @myfwc @fl_wildcorridor @pathofthepanther

Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge

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 @douglas_main 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 with National Geographic Society (@insidenatgeo) and numerous partners. 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 (@fl_wildcorridor). @ilcp_photographers

Today leaders from around Florida are 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 @nature_org 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. @fl_wildcorridor @1000friendsofflorida @pathofthepanther

Babcock Ranch Preserve

This is the most important photo in my career so far. It shows a female Florida panther with two cubs skirting the edge of a cypress swamp on Babcock Ranch State Preserve. She is the first female panther documented north of Caloosahatchee River since 1973, representing new hope for the recovery of her species. Biologists from the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission got the first photos of her in November 2016 and allowed me to setup a camera trap nearby. I got my first photo of the mother in January 2017. When I showed it to David Shindle, head panther biologist for the US Fish & Wildlife Service, he said, "I've been dreaming about her for 18 years." I captured this photo with kittens a year later. For 44 years, the breading population of Florida panther — the last puma surviving in the east — had been isolated to the southern tip of Florida. Males, which have bigger territories, have been wandering the Florida peninsula in recent decades. It’s only the female panthers that had been isolated in the south. The species will never reach sustainable numbers without access to its historic territory in the Northern Everglades and beyond. Just as this female panther gives new hope, a new toll road threatens to cut through and develop the last wild places that panthers need. See the story written by Douglas Main (@douglas_main) at NationalGeographic.com/animals (link in my bio). @pathofthepanther @fl_wildcorridor @insidenatgeo @ilcp_photographers

Lightsey Cattle Company

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. My hope is the story of the Florida panther connected to the map of the Florida Wildlife Corridor and voices such as Cary Lightsey's, will help people see what’s at stake and what we can save. @fl_wildcorridor @flcattlemen

Lightsey Cattle Company

A few more from last week at the Lightsey Ranch. 1. The rain came down hard for about a half hour while sorting in the cow pens. Distinctive yellow slickers became useful for more then keeping dry; when a cow broke a gate a slicker stretched between two cowboys would fill the hole. Cary Lightsey called the action from the catwalk along the chute. 2. Freddie Griffin, perhaps the most legendary Florida cowboy still riding at almost 79, and his kindred spirit Kenny Raney from a different century. 3. Cary Lightsey shows off his family’s recently retired brand from the 1870s beside an even older brand used to mark cattle for the Confederate States during the Civil War. 4. Cowboys load their horses from the barn to a trailer well before dawn. @fl_wildcorridor @flcattlemen @freshfromflorida

Lightsey Cattle Company

Florida cowboy Kenny Raney (@Ken y_raney3) gallops through a wet pasture near Otter Slough during a cattle round up on the Lightsey Ranch. Speed like this was on display throughout the day chasing breakaway cows and calves, but at this moment Kenny was buzzing the tower for video by my friend @zachashtons. @fl_wildcorridor @flcattlemen

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