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pathofthepanther

Path of the Panther

Telling the story of the Florida panther and the land it needs to survive

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/2019/08/florida-toll-road-threatens-wildlife-panthers/

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Path of the Panther (@pathofthepanther) Instagram photos and videos

List of Instagram medias taken by Path of the Panther (@pathofthepanther)

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 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 @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 // Photo and text by @carltonward . . . .

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. 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 . . . . . . . . . .

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 @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 // Photo and text by @carltonward . . . . . . . . . .

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. 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 bio). Photo and text by @CarltonWard . . . . . @fl_wildcorridor

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. . . . . . .    @flcattlemen

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. @fl_wildcorridor @flcattlemen Photo and text by @CarltonWard. . . . . .

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. . . . . .

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 @fl_wildcorridor , 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. . . . . .

Do we want to bulldoze and develop what's left beyond the boundaries of our parks and preserves? Or do we want to save the Florida Wildlife Corridor (@fl_wildcorridor. - a statewide network of public and private lands connecting habitat from the Everglades to Georgia and Alabama. The corridor encompasses 15.8 million acres – 9.5 million acres that are already protected and 6.3 million acres of remaining opportunity area that do not have conservation status. If we can save the Florida Wildlife Corridor, we can provide a future for wildlife, ranches, farms, outdoor recreation, the Everglades, and clean water for all Floridians. Photo by @carltonward. Map via @fl_wildcorridor. . . . . .

Florida’s nearly 10 million acres of treasured public land is stitched together by roughly six million privately held acres that are crucial for conservation. But they’re at risk of being lost to development. | Read @CarltonWard.s op-ed in the @tampabaytimes highlighting why we must protect the #pathofthepanther. (https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/2019/08/23/florida-must-protect-the-florida-wildlife-corridor-as-it-plans-new-toll-roads-carlton-ward-jr/?fbclid=IwAR2YK2pmMU5oQA_lurvqmdispFABLiEOWSN8xd2sX2Zq4jKrYNPQnPJrLeo) Photo by @CarltonWard. . . . . . #floridawild #pathofthepanther #floridawildlifecorridor #keepflwild #floridapanther #puma #florida #habitatloss #development #floridawildlife #explore #conservation

The Florida panther — the last big cat surviving in the eastern United States and the state animal of Florida — is an icon of the Florida Wildlife Corridor that is showing us what we need to do to keep Florida wild.  For the past four decades, the Caloosahatchee River has been the northern boundary to the known breeding range of the Florida panther. In that time, the panther population has rebounded from as few as 30 adults to nearly 200 today. But the requirements for the panther to recover from its Endangered Species status include establishing additional breeding populations of similar size in former panther territory in Central and North Florida. The habitat still exists. But can we protect it and keep it connected? Photo by @CarltonWard. . . . . .

Florida’s human population continues to grow by 1000 people per day. It is projected to grow from 21 million today to nearly 35 million by the year 2070. If we don’t protect the Florida Wildlife Corridor, suburban sprawl is projected to consume 5 million acres of wildlife habitat, surround and isolate existing conservation lands, and cut off the Everglades from its headwaters in Central Florida and the rest of America beyond. If we can save enough land to keep the Corridor connected, we will steer development closer to existing cities and away from our most sensitive lands and waters, providing a model to sustainably balance conservation and development. If we want to save wild Florida, the Path of the Panther will show us how. Photo by @CarltonWard. . . . . .

Welcome to the official Instagram feed for Path of the Panther! By working with scientist and landowners to tell the story of the Florida panther, we are seeking common ground to balance the needs of a growing human population and the land protection needed to keep the Everglades connected to North America. Because panthers need the same forests, wetlands, ranches and farms that provide clean air, water and food for Floridians, protecting the path of the panther is ultimately protecting ourselves. Follow along as our team explores, documents, and seeks to protect wild Florida. Photo by @carltonward . . . . . .

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