Troy Swauger, CDFW Outdoor California Magazine, (916) 322-8932
Barbara Steinberg, California Watchable Wildlife, (916) 335-1522
Bob Kingman, Sierra Nevada Conservancy, (530) 823-4678
Tulare photographer Brent Paull’s fascinating image of a young San Joaquin kit fox running full-speed across the rugged foothills near Bakersfield has earned the grand prize in the 2013 California Wildlife Photo of the Year contest. State Senator Jean Fuller (R-Bakersfield), who represents the district where Paull resides and is a member of the Senate Natural Resources and Water Committee, will recognize Paull on the floor of the Senate on Feb. 27.
The year-long contest was sponsored by California Watchable Wildlife, Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Outdoor California magazine. A best-of-the-best collection from the Wildlife Photo of the Year contest was prominently displayed outside the Governor’s Office in a special week-long exhibit earlier this month, and will be moved to CDFW headquarters in downtown Sacramento.
When CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham chose the grand prize winner, he said he considered each finalist as an outstanding representation of what the state offers. He commended each of the photographers for their exceptional skill with a camera lens, from the technical to the artistic. Ultimately, Bonham said, he could relate most to the young fox’s determination. “It’s a scrappy survivor, headed somewhere with a sense of purpose – as are we, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, in 2014,” Bonham said.
Paull has been a professional photographer for nearly 30 years. He has taught more than 300 photography seminars throughout California and has led more than 250 photography safaris across the western states. His photos have appeared in more than 1,000 publications and 11 times his shot has earned the cover.
Paull’s winning image came from a three-part photo session outside Bakersfield. He said the den was about 100 yards from a water source and held three young kit foxes. Each evening the foxes would come out cautiously and move separately towards the water. Paull used a high-powered lens and focused his camera on a spot where he anticipated the young foxes would pass. He made sure to give the animals enough room and not disturb anything near the den.
“They only would come out for about an hour near sunset, and I had only three opportunities to photograph them,” Paull said. “During one of those trips back, this particular young fox was startled by a passing red-tailed hawk. It went to full-speed, running over the uneven terrain, all four feet off the ground.”
Kit foxes play an important role in the ecosystem of the Central Valley but sometimes come into conflict with urban development. Though the species was thriving in the 1930s, the federal government classified it as endangered in 1967 and California listed it as threatened in 1971. Today, there are established urban populations of San Joaquin kit foxes in the cities of Bakersfield, Taft and Coalinga.
California Watchable Wildlife and Outdoor California launched the annual photo contest to acknowledge photographs that illustrate the state’s diverse wildlife and the viewing experiences found throughout its natural and wild lands. California Watchable Wildlife celebrates the state’s wildlife and diverse habitats by promoting the value of wildlife viewing to individuals, families, communities, and industries while fostering awareness of and support for conservation and protection efforts.
The Sierra Nevada Conservancy joined as a contest sponsor during the second year, to encourage more representation from a region rich with a diversity of wildlife.
The contest runs throughout the year with winners announced in the bi-monthly Outdoor California magazine. The grand prize winner is selected in January. During the 2013 competition, nearly 300 images were entered for consideration. Winning entries can be viewed at www.cawatchablewildlife.org along with information on how to compete in this year’s contest.