A Rescued Tiger Cub? Mating Mollusks? A Thieving Fox? One of These Images Could Bring Home the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Award.

From playful animal behavior to pollution and poaching, these artists capture the state of nature in 2017.

Red squirrels keep busy foraging during the winter, but Swedish photographer Mats Andersson caught this little guy in a brief moment of respite in “Winter pause.” Between the fluffed fur and closed eyes, you can practically feel the chill coming off the screen.

Mats Andersson/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A red squirrel pauses in its search for spruce cones on a frigid winter morning; a rain-soaked bald eagle boldly looks straight into the camera; a seahorse clutches at a Q-tip in sewage-choked waters. These are a few of the moments captured by the finalists for Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2017.

Since 1965, the Natural History Museum in London has held this annual celebration of nature photography. Selected from a pool of nearly 50,000 entries from 92 countries, this year’s 13 finalists were announced by the museum earlier this month. The stunning images hint at both nature’s beauty and its devastation.

“As we contemplate our critical role in earth’s future, the images show the astonishing diversity of life on our planet and the crucial need to shape a more sustainable future,” reads the competition’s press release.

To get the perfect shot, wildlife photographers must possess an uncommon degree of patience, but these finalists don’t have much longer to wait now. At an awards ceremony on October 17, the museum will unveil the winners, “selected for their creativity, originality, and technical excellence.”

An exhibition featuring 100 of the top photos will go on display at the Natural History Museum in London starting October 20.

In “Sewage surfer,” photographer Justin Hofman captured this heartbreaking image of a seahorse clinging to a Q-tip near Indonesia’s Sumbawa island before falling ill himself from the polluted water. The world’s largest archipelago has the highest level of marine biodiversity, but it is also the second-highest contributor of ocean plastic—hopefully not for long. Indonesia has pledged to reduce its marine waste by 70 percent by 2025.

Justin Hofman/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Alaska’s Lake Clark National Park and Preserve provides an ideal environment for brown bears—but to this cub (with its patient mother) in “Bear hug,” it’s just a big playground.

Ashleigh Scully/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

In “Saved but caged,” an anti-poaching patrol in the Sumatran rainforest rescued this six-month-old tiger cub after it spent four days trapped in a snare, likely set by oil-palm plantation workers. The cub, whose leg had to be amputated, will spend the rest of his life in a Javan zoo.

Steve Winter/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Living up to 200 years old, saguaro cacti in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert National Monument tower at more than 40 feet. In “Saguaro twist,” Jack Dykinga captured these slow-growing giants in the gentle light of dawn.

Jack Dykinga/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Bald eagles on Alaska’s Amaknak Island hang around the harbor to scavenge for fishing industry leftovers. Bedraggled yet valiant, this raptor in “Bold eagle” seems to encapsulate the species’ recovery from the brink of extinction.

Klaus Nigge/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Just after Andrey Narchuk snapped this shot, “Romance among the angels,” of mating sea angels in the Sea of Okhotsk, he became ensnared in a gill net and needed to make an emergency ascent.

Andrey Narchuk/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

During the golden hour of mellow sunlight in Kenya’s Maasai Mara National Reserve, a female leading a herd of a dozen elephants to a watering hole looks straight at the photographer in “The power of the matriarch.”

David Lloyd/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Only two small populations of the endangered Iberian lynx remain in southern Spain, but in her search for the elusive cat in Sierra de Andújar National Park, photographer Laura Albiac Vilas (in the 11-to-14-year-old category!) got lucky to catch this shot, “Glimpse of a lynx.”

Laura Albiac Vilas/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A resplendent quetzal delivers fruit to its chicks in the Costa Rican cloud forest of San Gerardo de Dota in “Resplendent delivery.”

Tyohar Kastiel/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

The clown anemonefish is immune to the anemone’s stinging tentacles. In exchange for shelter and food, the fish scare away the anemone’s predators and improve water circulation. In this image, “The insiders,” from the Lembeh Strait in Indonesia, other organisms are along for the ride: parasitic isopods peek out from fishes’ mouths.

Qing Lin/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

A mother Weddell seal—the world’s southernmost breeding mammal—introduces her young pup to east Antarctica’s icy waters for the first time in “Swim gym.”

Laurent Ballesta/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

In “Arctic treasure,” an Arctic fox dashes through the snow of Wrangel Island in the Russian Far East with a goose egg. Foxes here steal up to 40 eggs a day and cache them in the refrigerator-cold soil to feast on at a later date.

Sergey Gorshkov/Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Wildlife Photographer of the Year is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London.


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