BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition


Participants in this year’s contest, which is in its tenth year to submit photos that showcase the life of Earth and illustrate some of the numerous threats our planet is facing. The images were published initially within bioGraphic, an online magazine focusing on regeneration and nature, and the official media sponsor of the California Academy of Sciences BigPicture Natural World Photography Contest. The organizers were willing to share pictures of the winners and finalists here. Terrestrial Wildlife Winner.

From a first look, this may appear to be a mother snow leopard cuddling her kitten. However, a closer inspection will reveal a lack of distinct spots in the grey fur of the smaller cat. The mature feline is a cat named Pallas’s manual, also known as the size of a domestic cat with a range that spans Central Asia and overlaps with the mountains, steppes, and high deserts, which are the preferred habitat of its more well-known counterpart that is the snow leopard. While they have a shared affinity for high altitudes and cold climates, there is no evidence that snow leopards feed on the pallas’ cats. Thus, when photographer Donglin Zhou saw this snow leopard sneaking up on the cat of a mother on the Quinhai-Tibet Plateau, she was stunned.

  • Like many ecosystems of the western part of North America, many forests within Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada, benefit from natural wildfires that are low-intensity and naturally occurring. They replenish soil nutrients, prevent forests from becoming homogeneous, and encourage the development of berry plants that grizzly bears and other wildlife enjoy eating. Since 1913, however, park managers have vigorously prevented wildfires from spreading in the park’s 227,000 acres. Only eight fires in the 20th century were more than 100 acres before firefighters put out the fires.
  • Managers of land across Alberta implemented similar methods. When all this dead wood is pushed into the hotter dry conditions brought on by climate changes, atypically massive and intense wildfires explode. Though fire-adapted forests can recover from low-intensity wildfires conducted across the Rocky Mountains has shown that seeds of trees struggle to grow in the aftermath of massive fires. In Jasper National Park, as elsewhere across West North America, forest managers are working to revert a century of poor management by burning controlled fires and letting a few wildfires rage. The resultant landscapes might look distinct from the broad swaths of green pine and spruce that visitors to the park are used to, but, as this chilling image of a spruce-burned forest illustrates, they can also be attractive. 
  • Miquel Angel Artus Illana / BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition
  • Life on the Edge: Terrestrial Wildlife Finalist. Nubian Ibexes live at the edge of survival in deserts with no vegetation and extreme climates. They also reside at the edge of cliffs with no space or a steep drop for companions. These cliffs’ vertiginous topography helps keep predators away, such as wolves and leopards. At the Israeli Avdat Nature Park, scientists have observed Nubian ibexes take their infants on cliffs with outcrops that are too rocky for mammals to climb. Then they return to feed them until the infants become agile enough to climb the cliffs independently. 
  • Amit Eshel / BigPicture Natural World Photography Competition
  • Coyote Crossing: Grand Prize Winner. How did the coyote get across the road? If it is among the 4,000 or more living in the Chicago metropolitan area, it could be that it took the bridge to stay out of the way of the car. In all of the United States, motor-vehicle collisions cause more than 1 million vertebrate fatalities per day, and Chicago is not an exception. Coyotes generally live within The Windy City for three years, compared with ten years in the wild. It can be the possibility of up to 18 years when they are in captivity. The most frequent reason for death is being struck by a vehicle. But coyotes have found ingenious ways to coexist with humans, like many wild animals living in densely populated urban environments–including those featured in Corey Arnold’s Grand-Prize-winning photo story. In Chicago, where Arnold was accompanied by researchers of the Cook County Urban Coyote Research Project, coyotes often utilize train trestles such as this one to get around traffic jams. They also change their behavior to hunt at night, which means they are less likely to come across human beings and appear to stay clear of litter in favor of Chicago’s living deer or rodents. 


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