A Canadian physician and photographer caught a surprising scene on a trip to Wapusk National Park near Churchill, Manitoba — the aftermath of a deadly fight between a red fox and an Arctic fox. Now, the rare photograph has earned Don Gutoski the top prize at the annual Wildlife Photographer of the Year contest.
“The Churchill guides had heard that the two species will occasionally fight, but no one we talked to had ever seen this behaviour,” Gutoski says in a news release. “I first noticed the red fox hunting and interacting with some prey and on closer approach realized that prey was a white Arctic fox. By the time I got close enough to capture the event, the fight was over and the victor was feeding. I took a number of pictures of the event, until the red fox had eaten its fill, and picked up the remains to find a hiding spot for a later meal.”
Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London. Kathy Moran, jury member and National Geographic magazine’s senior editor for natural history projects, had this to say about the winning shot: “The immediate impact of this photograph is that it appears as if the red fox is slipping out of its winter coat. What might simply be a straightforward interaction between predator and prey struck the jury as a stark example of climate change, with red foxes encroaching on Arctic fox territory.
This image works on multiple levels. It is graphic; it captures behavior and it is one of the strongest single storytelling photographs I have seen.”
Here is Gutoski reacting to the news:
The winning photographs will be on display at the Natural History Museum, London, from October 16 through April 10.
Here are some of the other winners:
Fourteen-year-old Ondřej Pelánek of Czech Republic won the title of Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 for this shot, taken in the Norwegian tundra, of ruffs showing off in a territorial breeding display.
Jonathan Jagot of France has been sailing around the world with his family for five years. On the island of Lençóis in Brazil he became fascinated with the scarlet ibis. His dedication to capturing the gorgeous species earned him the top prize for young wildlife photographers ages 15-17.
In another spectacular bird entry, Amir Ben-Dov of Israel captured this shot of three red-footed falcons interacting on a branch. These three birds, two sub-adult females and the gray adult male, appeared to have a special relationship, spending most of their time together and even hunting together in a way that is not typical of the species.
Edwin Giesbers of the Netherlands had to get wet to get this shot. He donned a wetsuit and snuck up on a male great crested newt floating in a stream during the mating season. The photograph was part of a major story on the threats facing amphibians in the Netherlands and Belgium.
Michael AW of Australia captured something special when he was diving off South Africa’s Eastern Cape. This Bryde’s whale was part of a feeding frenzy on billions of sardines. AW risked his skin getting close to the five Bryde’s whales and numerous sharks taking part in the feast to get the perfect shot.
This sly fox evaded capture by UK photographer Richard Peters’ lens for a time, but in the end the man behind the lens prevailed. His patience paid off, and he won the Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s urban category.
Once a year, the intertidal wetlands of Spain’s Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park see a blossom of color as bright green seaweed and algal blooms intermingle. Pere Soler caught the special event from a plane he hired to fly overhead.
Britta Jaschinski of Germany and UK won the prize for wildlife photojournalism for this shot, which captured lions and tigers performing at Seven Star Park in Guilin, China. Jaschinski has been documenting the exploitation of animals for entertainment for 20 years.
This photograph looks like a painting because it’s a photograph of a painting. Look closer. A swallow is darting through a hole in the canvas. Juan Tapia of Spain set up this shot on his farm, where swallows would enter an old storehouse through a hole in the windowpane. He took home the prize in the “impressions” category.