A photo of hugging squirrels received the most love online to win the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s 2018 Preserve the Moment photo contest.

The picture of a mother squirrel embracing her kit was snapped in September by Channahon resident Barbara Parisi at McKinley Woods – Kerry Sheridan Grove.

Photo contest fans went nuts over the photo and the fuzzy duo had the highest vote total on the Forest Preserve’s Facebook page, Facebook.com/WillCoForests with more “likes” and comments than any of the other seven monthly finalists’ photos. Almost 1,500 votes were cast to select the top three photos.

When judges selected her as a monthly winner in September, Parisi, an avid birder and amateur photographer, said she had been in the preserve only a minute when she saw the mother squirrel interacting with her babies. She missed the first embrace, but was able to capture a second hug. After she was notified of her overall win based on Facebook votes, Parisi said she was happy so many people liked the photo.

“I hope it made more people appreciative of the small sentient animals that live around us,” she said. ” … I also hope it will bring some light on how important conservation is and how fragile the balance between man and nature has become.”

Second place in the contest went to Naperville resident Nancy Havener for a soothing sunset photo taken at Whalon Lake in December. And third place was nabbed by Romeoville resident Mark Hanna for his July photo of a green heron sporting a funky Elvis-like hairstyle at McKinley Woods – Kerry Sheridan Grove.

Parisi receives a $500 gift card for her first-place win. Havener and Hanna receive $250 and $150 gift cards for second and third place, respectively.
In a random drawing, three photo contest participants also won $75 gift cards. They were: Karen Krahn of Plainfield, Josh Link of Peotone and Leslie Bolin of Homer Glen. Contest prizes were made possible through the generous support of The Nature Foundation of Will County.

This year’s photo contest, the third annual, began May 1 and ended December 31. Almost 1,000 photos were entered, compared to 704 in 2016 and 724 in 2017. Winners were chosen each month, and the eight monthly finalists competed for overall contest honors via online voting in January.

All of the 2018 photo contest entries can be viewed on the District’s Flickr page, Flickr.com/WillCoForests. For more information on the Forest Preserve District of Will County, visit ReconnectWithNature.org.

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