A few weeks ago we brought you a sneak peek at the Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, featuring some of our favourite snapshots from the finalists. And now the wait is over! Out of nearly 42,000 entries from 96 countries, a handful of spectacular winning images have been chosen.

Taking the top prize was Canadian amateur photographer Don Gutoski for his chillingly beautiful image of a red fox clutching its Arctic cousin between its jaws. Fourteen-year-old Czech photographer Ondrej Pelánek was named Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year for his snapshot of ruffs engaged in a territorial skirmish. The two images will be displayed alongside the winners in other categories at the 51st Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition at London’s Natural History Museum.

Don Gutoski Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Winner. It’s a frozen moment revealing a surprising behaviour, witnessed in Wapusk National Park, on Hudson Bay, Canada, in early winter. Red foxes don’t actively hunt Arctic foxes, but where the ranges of two predators overlap, there can be conflict. In this case, it led to a deadly attack. Though the light was poor, the snow-covered tundra provided the backdrop for the moment that the red fox paused with the smaller fox in its mouth in a grim pose. Image: Don Gutoski/WPY2015
Ondrej Pelánek Young Wildlife Photographer Of The Year
Young Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Winner. On Norway’s Varanger Peninsula, territorial male ruffs in full breeding plumage show off their ruffs to each other, proclaiming ownership of their courtship areas. Ondrej took his winning shot as one male leapt up, warning off his neighbours. Image: Ondrej Pelánek/WPY2015
Michael AW Underwater
Under Water: Winner. A Bryde’s whale rips through a swirling ball of sardines, gulping a huge mouthful in a single pass. Michael was diving off South Africa’s eastern coast, specifically to photograph the spectacle of the ‘Sardine Run’, the annual winter migration of billions of sardines along the southeastern coast of southern Africa. Image: Michael Aw/WPY2015
Amir Ben Dov Birds (1)
Birds: Winner. Red-footed falcons are social birds, migrating in large flocks from central and eastern Europe to Africa. Amir spent six days watching them on agricultural land near Beit Shemesh, Israel, where their flock was resting on autumn migration, refuelling on insects. Image: Amir Ben-Dov/WPY2015
Edwin Giesbers Amphibians Reptiles
Amphibians and Reptiles: Winner. A great crested newt hangs motionless near the surface of a stream. Also motionless in the water, in Gelderland in the Netherlands, was Edwin in a wetsuit. He had very slowly moved his compact camera right under the newt, and though he knew the shot he wanted, he had to guess at the framing and literally point and shoot. Edwin took this shot as part of a major story on the threat facing amphibians throughout the Netherlands and Belgium: an Asian skin fungus has all but wiped out fire salamanders in the Netherlands. Image: Edwin Giesbers/WPY2015
Richard Peters Urban
Urban: Winner. A snatched glimpse or a movement in the shadows is how most people see an urban fox, and it was that sense of living in the shadows that Richard wanted to convey. He had been photographing nocturnal wildlife in his back garden in Surrey, England, for several months before he had the idea for the image, given to him by the fox when it walked through the beam of a torch he had set up, casting its profile on the side of his shed. Image: Richard Peters/WPY2015
Pere Soler From The Skies
From the Sky: Winner. Spain's Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park is a mosaic of marshes, reedbeds, sand dunes and beaches, which attracts great numbers of birds. Pere was there for the birds but also for a spring phenomenon, only fully visible from the air. As the temperature warms and the salinity changes, the intertidal wetlands are transformed by colour as bright green seaweed intermingles with multicoloured microalgal blooms. White salt deposits and brown and orange sediments coloured by sulphurous bacteria and iron oxide add to the riot of colour. Image: Pere Soler/WPY2015
Jonathan Jagot 15 17 Years
Young Wildlife Photographers 15–17 years old: Winner. Jonathan had been sailing round the world with his family when they anchored off the island of Lençóis on the coast of Brazil and he saw his first scarlet ibis. Then he had an idea: he would photograph a flock framed against the beautiful dunes the island is famous for. At low tide, he took his dinghy into an estuary at one end of the island, anchored where he had a view of the dunes and waited. As the tide rose, so did the ibis, creating a glorious pattern of scarlet wings against the canvas of sand. Image: Jonathan Jagot/WPY2015
Britta Jaschinski Photojournalism Single Image Award
The Wildlife Photojournalist Award: Single Image Winner. Big cats perform at the Seven Star Park in China. They've had their teeth and claws pulled out, and when not in the arena, they live in the tiny cages visible behind the stage. For the past 20 years, Britta has been documenting the world of animals in captivity and their unnecessary suffering in the name of education and entertainment. But never, she says, has she come across ‘such brutal and systematic deprivation’ as in China. Image: Britta Jaschinski/WPY2015

Want to try your hand at being an award-winning wildlife photographer? The 2016 Wildlife Photographer of the Year Competition, which is developed and produced by the Natural History Museum, London, opens for entries this coming December. Time to dust off those cameras and go exploring!

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Top header image: Alan, Flickr