Photographer Face-To-Face Encounters With Florida Panther In Once-In-A-Lifetime Moment

Carlton Ward Jr is a Florida-based wildlife photographer and a conservationist who has worked mostly his life to protect animal species there. On a trip to Audubon's Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary,  he had a chance to capture a precious moment that "take (him) 20 years to get" - a face-to-face encounter with a Florida panther.
On Instagram, Carlton shared a post saying how excited he was to experience the rare scene.

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He began by telling how he met the majestic animal. Carlton, who is highly interested in Florida panthers, has been going through 2000 miles to finally make a perfect shot of the creature on a sunny afternoon. When he caught sight of the panther, it was lying 150 yards away from him. What happened in his head at that time was really a rollercoaster of feelings.
"I grabbed a telephoto lens and nervously snapped a few fuzzy frames through the windshield before rolling a little closer and pulling off to the side," he wrote, "and with the panther still far away in bad light, I complied, not realizing how jacked up I was until trying to hold my iPhone steady."
It is clear that Cartlon was trying to grab some frames of the wild creature. When the moment he had been waiting for two decades came, he felt overwhelming.

Image source: Carlton Ward Jr

"The panther kept coming, skirting the edge of the swamp behind grass and low palms... Then it walked within 20 yards of my truck and sat down in an island of palms directly out my window! I filled the frame with its body and looked straight into its piercing eyes!"
He shared: “My body was pulsing with energy. I have captured some powerful pictures with my camera traps, but there was an entirely different level of emotional connection looking into the eyes of this wild panther while she was looking right back at me.”
The once-in-a-lifetime moment only happens to those who are lucky enough to witness, and Cartlon was a lucky one. He warmly thanked the staff at Corkscrew Swamp for protecting the place and gave him a chance to access their land.
Florida Panther is one of the most elusive mammals in North America and the last puma in the Eastern US. They live in pineland and hardwood hammocks. This species is disappearing from the wild as humans continue destroying its habitats. Thanks to conservative efforts, the number of Florida panthers increased up to 230 individuals in 2017 (reported by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service).

Image source: Carlton Ward Jr

Hopefully, the state will launch more breeding programs to prevent these wild cats from extinction.
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