Carlton Ward Jr@carltonward

Photographer and Explorer @NatGeo | Focused on wild nature, often hidden in plain sight | #PathofthePanther

http://www.PathofthePanther.com/

Path of the Panther. The reason I am focusing on the Florida panther for my current storytelling project with @NatGeo is that protecting the land needed for the wide-ranging panther will protect millions of acres of habitat for thousands of other species that depend on the panther’s domain. Not to mention saving Florida rangelands, timberlands, groves and the headwaters of the Everglades from development. As rancher Cary Lightsey told me, “the panther is going to have to help us save Florida.” A male panther has a home range of 200 square miles — four time larger than the city of Miami but approximately the same amount of wildlife habitat lost to development in Florida each year. This camera trap at Babcock Ranch shows a few of the species relying on the “Path of the Panther.” Swipe for 3 more photos following this adult male panther: white-tailed deer, Osceola turkey and raccoon, all captured on the same trail during a couple weeks in January. Please share this story to help inspire the protection of the #FloridaWildlifeCorridor. @fl_wildcorridor #PathofthePanther #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild #panther #deer #turkey #raccoon #corridor


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Coral reefs rise close to the surface in Dry Tortugas National Park, with the historic lighthouse at Loggerhead Key in the background. Seventy miles west of Key West, Florida, this lighthouse marks the tip of a Marine Protected Area where the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico meet. Corals here remain relatively pristine compared to reefs closer to Florida's heavily developed coastlines. But no corner of the ocean is beyond the reach of plastics pollution. I share this photograph on #WorldOceansDay as a reminder of what is at stake if we don't clean up our act. Join me in signing the #planetorplastics pledge @natgeo. Shot #onassigment for @nature_org in @drytortugasnps. #Coral #reef #ocean #floridawild #keepflwild #pureflorida #lovefl


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Did you know that Florida has black bears? There are seven subpopulations distributed throughout the state from Naples to Pensacola that are increasingly isolated by roads and suburban sprawl (swipe right for a map). The core populations are centered on large, forested, public lands. This camera trap photo is from a cattle ranch in between. The importance of ranches to wide-ranging bears inspired the Florida Wildlife Corridor project, which advocates for the habitat protection needed to keep wild Florida connected. In 2012, I hiked, paddled and biked 1,000+ miles in 100 consecutive days, tracing this last remaining wildlife corridor between the Everglades (southern tip of Florida) north to the Okefenokee Swamp (southern Georgia). My current #PathofthePanther project with @NatGeo is focused on the same Corridor through the story of the endangered Florida panther, because without protecting a wildlife corridor north from the Everglades, the panther will have no path to recovery. The clock is ticking as 1000 people move to Florida each day, and 5 million acres of the Corridor are projected to be lost by 2070 if development continues on its current trajectory. Please share this story so we can help save the #FloridaWildlifeCorridor. @fl_wildcorridor @insidenatgeo. #everglades #expedition #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild #bear #corridor @myfwc. Bear research by @joeguthrie8 at @archboldstation, expedition team with @mallorydimmitt.


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During the next few days I’ll be sharing some photos from the Florida Wildlife Corridor Expeditions. For the first Expedition, our team started in Everglades National Park at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula, and paddled, hiked and biked 1,000+ miles over 100 consecutive days, tracing the last remaining wildlife corridor still connecting the Everglades north to the Okefenokee Swamp in southern Georgia. See my recent post @NatGeo for a map showing our route, alongside the route of the 2015 expedition that followed the western reaches of the Corridor from the Everglades Headwaters near Orlando around the Gulf Coast to Alabama. This photo shows a crocodile sunning itself on mangrove roots in the brackish waters where the estuary meets Florida Bay. Everglades National Park holds the largest protected mangrove coastline in the Western Hemisphere. We didn’t see people outside our team for several days of the Expedition as we explored the vast watery wilderness of this World Heritage Area that arguably has the most to lose if we fail to protect a corridor to keep the Everglades connected to its headwaters in Central Florida and the rest of the country beyond. My current #PathofthePanther project with @NatGeo is working to bring more attention to this same issue through the story of the endangered Florida panther, because without protecting a wildlife corridor to the north, the panther will have no path to recovery. The clock is ticking as 1000 people move to Florida each day. Five million acres of the Corridor are projected to be lost by 2070 if development continues along its current sprawling trajectory. @insidenatgeo. #everglades #expedition #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild @evergladesnps. With @mallorydimmitt @joeguthrie8 and @filmnatureman.


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One of my camera traps, which I checked last week, produced this photo of a bobcat winding it's way through cypress knees and over a downed tree in Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge. This is one of my favorite and most challenging camera sites. My goal is to show an endangered Florida panther amidst the quintessential south Florida swamp habitat that has been necessary for its survival during the past century. But since I first placed a camera trap here in 2015, the swamp has been flooded with water for 70 percent of the time. I've captured an amazing alligator photo, some good bear shots, and now this bobcat, but not yet a panther image that rises to the promise of this location. And now the rainy season has started again. Hopefully I'll get a couple more weeks of when this drainage is still a dry trail, and maybe a panther will come through. If not, it will be another 8 months before the water subsides and I can try again. Meanwhile, I am thankful for this bobcat that came through in the twilight hours to show off its beautiful forest home. My #PathofthePanther project with @NatGeo is about using the story of the Florida panther to inspire appreciation and protection of the Florida Wildlife Corridor so we can keep the Everglades connected to the rest of America and provide and path for the northward expansion and recovery of the panther, for the benefit of all of the other species (and people) who rely on its domain. Please follow @CarltonWard for more hidden wildlife. @FL_WildCorridor @USFWS #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild @myfwc


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A historic stilt house in Biscayne National Park stands as a vestige of Florida’s coastal heritage against the skyline of downtown Miami — Florida’s busiest city. Shot #onassignment for @NatGeoTravel #Miami #BiscayneBay @biscaynenps


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My focus on wildlife corridors in Florida was motivated in 2006. I was photographing a cattle ranch in the Northern Everglades and met biologist Joe Guthrie (@joeguthrie8) who was studying black bears there with with University of KY and @archboldstation. Joe caught the bear in this photo, named M13, and fitted it with a GPS tracking collar. Data from M13 and other bears in the study told the remarkable story of how different landscapes can work together as one. State parks, national wildlife refuges, military bases, state forests, orange groves and cattle ranches were all functioning together as large connected habitat from the perspective of wide ranging bears. The black bears of the Northern Everglades and the private lands on which they depend, and the relentless conversion of natural and agricultural lands into roads and housing developments, inspired me and colleagues to found the Florida Wildlife Corridor campaign (@FL_WildCorridor) for the purpose of demonstrating that a statewide wildlife corridor exists, and can still be saved. Joe’s bear project was started by David Maehr (third photo), who was one of the first biologists to advocate for the importance of working farms and ranches for wide ranging species, especially the Florida panthers and Florida black bears that were his expertise. Maehr died tragically in a plane crash tracking a missing black bear in 2008. Our work with the Florida Wildlife Corridor and my current #pathofthepanther project with @natgeo strive to continue his legacy. #bear #wildlife #corridor #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild


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There is a saying that cats don't like water, but for the endangered Florida panther, the ability to live in flooded forests and wetlands has been a matter of survival. The Florida panther is the last puma surviving in the eastern United States, where the species was hunted or displaced from most of its range, except for the southern tip of Florida. Before roads and canals were built to cut and drain the land, the inhospitable, watery wilderness protected panthers from persecution by settlers who were moving south into the rest of the peninsula. The same difficult terrain also helped Seminole Indians endure three wars with US calvalry and remain unconquered. To show a panther walking in water, I set one of my camera traps — a studio in the woods — deep in the Fakahatchee Strand on a seasonally flooded trail. This is the same camera trap that photographed the great blue heron from my last post. Finally, after several months trying, a panther came through. Part of my #PathofthePanther project with @Natgeo, working to inspire the protection of the @FL_WildCorridor through the story of the endangered Florida panther. #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild #swamplife @myfwc @usfws


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We visited this large cypress tree in the Reedy Creek Swamp during the @FL_WildCorridor #heartland2headwaters Expedition that ended on Earth Day. This scene was wild but intense development was less than a mile away. Our purpose was to explore one of the last remaining wildlife corridors connecting the Everglades north to the rest of Florida and the US across Interstate 4 — the most dangerous road in America that is funneling development outward from Orlando and threatening to cut the state of Florida in half. I hope more of Florida’s 21 million residents and 100 million annual visitor will enjoy the impressive network of parks and trails hiding in plain sight of the amusement parks while helping inspire lawmakers to protect wildlife corridors before it’s too late. #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild. With @mallorydimmitt @joeguthrie8 @danny_schmidt and @implementproductions.


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This is a new photo from one of my camera trap systems at Babcock Ranch. I abandoned this site last June when summer rains started to fill the swamp and redeployed there in early April, hoping to capture a few weeks of dry season activity. No panthers yet, but this coyote passed in front of my camera a few times in April. Hogs, deer and turkey too, so hopefully a panther will soon follow. Part of my #PathofthePanther project with @Natgeo working to inspire the protection of the @FL_WildCorridor through the story of the endangered Florida panther. Thanks @be_the_kreature for helping find this spot. @myfwc #FloridaWild #KeepFLWild #Coyote #wildlife #Florida


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[2 photos and a map] It felt wild and ancient when we hung our hammocks in the dark Reedy Creek swamp after a day of hiking. But the noise of traffic to our east and west would not let us forget that this thread of the Florida Wildlife Corridor is squeezed by development sprawling out from Orlando and that the roads and houses of this other world were less than a half mile away. See the link in my bio for the story in Sunday’s @tampabaytimes. The #Heartland2Headwaters Expedition began April 15 at The Nature Conservancy’s Disney Wilderness Preserve in the vast Everglades Headwaters and entered a bottleneck in the Corridor — a last green thread — that connects through intense development and across Interstate 4 to the Green Swamp Wilderness west of Orlando. Our purpose was to explore the fragile connections that will soon be lost without serious investments in land protection. The Everglades could inadvertently be cut off from the rest of America. Our trek ended on Earth Day. With @mallorydimmitt @joeguthrie8 @grizzlycreekfilms @danny_schmidt @implementproductions @3bearsmedia @bendicci @alexofthewild @trisaratops409 @fl_wildcorridor @nature_org @natureflorida


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The bright green of new cypress needles is a hallmark of spring in Florida swamps. At Babcock Ranch, reflections of the surrounding trees color the surface of ponds in the Telegraph Swamp, where a large alligator breaks up the green mirror at the surface. It was still enough I was able to capture a composite panoramic — panning my tripod head to shoot several overlapping vertical frames that were later reassembled into a single ultra high resolution photograph. This swamp can be seen by visiting the @babcockranchecotour. Babcock Ranch is the site of the first female panther documented north of the Everglades since 1973. I am following this story for my #pathofthepanther project with @natgeo. Babcock Ranch is part of the @fl_wildcorridor which we visited during the 2012 Everglades to Okefenokee Expedition. #floridawild #keepflwild


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