Science & Environment

Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Warring foxes take prize

A tale of two foxes Image copyright DON GUTOSKI / WPY2015
Image caption "A Tale of Two Foxes": Don Gutoski's picture captures a symmetry in life and death

To the victor the spoils. An image of warring foxes has won the 2015 Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition.

Taken by amateur Don Gutoski, the picture captures the moment a red fox hauls away the carcass of its Arctic cousin following a deadly attack in Canada's Wapusk National Park.

"It's the best picture I've ever taken in my life," Don told BBC News.

"It's the symmetry of the heads, the bodies and the tails - even the expression on the faces."

Image copyright MICHAEL AW / WPY2015
Image caption The "Under Water" winner is Michael Aw (Australia). This is a Bryde's whale ripping through a sardine "bait ball" offshore of South Africa's Transkei coast

The ranges of the two fox species overlap at Wapusk, which hugs the shore of Hudson Bay in Manitoba.

And if the larger red catches sight of the Arctic resident, it will try to prey on the northern species.

Wildlife guides in the park had spoken of seeing the conflict, but this is thought to be one of the first cases where it has been documented on camera.

42,000 entries

Kathy Moran, who sat on the judging panel, said the horror of the foxes scene was surprisingly understated.

"It doesn't come across as gory at all. In fact, when you first look at the picture, it's almost as if the red fox is taking off his winter coat."

Image copyright BRITTA JASCHINSKI
Image caption Britta Jaschinski (Germany/UK) wins the "Single-Image Photojournalist" award. These big cats perform at the Seven Star Park in Guilin, China. They have had their teeth and claws pulled out. Britta calls the picture "Broken Cats"

Kathy, who is National Geographic magazine's senior editor for natural history projects, also described it as an image with a powerful message about climate change.

Higher latitudes are warming fast, allowing animals that would not normally come into contact to cross each other's ranges.

"As it gets warmer in the Arctic and sub-Arctic and the red fox can move further north into the territory occupied by the Arctic fox, you are going to get increasingly these kinds of tensions," she said.

Mr Gutoski was named as Wildlife Photographer of the Year (WPY) on Tuesday, at a ceremony at London's Natural History Museum. The NHM owns and organises the competition.

The judges sorted through 42,000 entries submitted from almost 100 countries.

Image copyright RICHARD PETERS / WPY2015
Image caption Richard Peters (UK) wins the "Urban" category for another fox scene. He calls this image "Shadow Walker"

"A Tale of Two Foxes", as the winning image is known, will now feature in an exhibition that will open at the museum on Friday before, at a later date, going on tour.

WPY, which has been running now for over 50 years, is divided into 18 categories, each with its own best in class.

The second big overall prize is the Junior Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

This has gone to 14-year-old Ondrej Pelánek from the Czech Republic for his image, Fighting Ruffs.

Image copyright ONDREJ PELÁNEK / WPY2015
Image caption This flurry of feathers wins Ondrej Pelánek the title of Young Wildlife Photographer of the year

The birds are waders and are known for their "rough" behaviour during courting. Ondrej pictured them on Varanger Peninsula in the far north of Norway.

"This is a scene that many adult photographers have tried to capture, and Ondrej has really got it," said Kathy Moran.

"It's graphic; the behaviour is all there; every element you would want in a photograph has come together in the moment. And to know that it was taken by one of our young photographers gives it an extra dimension."

Image copyright AMIR BEN-DOV / WPY2015
Image caption Amir Ben-Dov (Israel) is the "Birds" category winner. He spent five days shooting these red-footed falcons. This image came from the last five minutes on the fifth day
Image copyright EDWIN GIESBERS / WPY2015
Image caption Edwin Giesbers (Netherlands) pictures a newt from underneath as it moves across the surface of a stream. The picture wins the "Amphibians and Reptiles" category
Image copyright JONATHAN JAGOT / WPY2015
Image caption These scarlet ibis were photographed by Jonathan Jagot (France), off the island of Lençóis on the coast of northeast Brazil. Jonathan is the category winner in the "15-17 years" of age group
Image copyright JUAN TAPIA / WPY2015
Image caption Juan Tapia (Spain) wins the "Impressions" category. It is a staged scene in which a broken canvas has been placed over a broken windowpane that barn swallows have been using to enter an old storehouse in Almeria, southern Spain
Image copyright PERE SOLER / WPY2015
Image caption "From The Sky": Pere Soler (Spain) pictures the algal blooms in the wetlands of Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park on the coast of Andalucía

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos

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