Frank and Ellen Weed
A Wildlife Photographer's Dream Come True
As a part of our short series on animal photography, we can't go any further until we tell you about Frank and Ellen Weed. Unfortunately they are recently deceased. However, their legacy lives on and they leave behind a fascinating story of providing animal subjects for photo shoots.
Frank Weed was a self taught expert on big cats. He sometimes was not taken seriously by the scientific community, but many times he was proven to be right after all. For instance, in regard to the puma. Over twenty nine sub-species of this beautiful animal have been described in the scientific literature. Frank insisted that all of the pumas were the same animal. He actually testified on behalf of a Florida Seminole Chief who was accused of poaching the endangered Florida Panther. The Chief had mistakenly killed a cat that he considered to be a cougar. Frank single handedly proved to the prosecution that the chief's accusers could not possibly identify the animal as a Florida Panther. The Chief won the case. By the way, the panther is considered sacred to the Seminoles. They have been known to hunt them and consume them in special ceremonies. Years after Frank's death, DNA testing proved him right. In all of North America there is only one puma. (there are four total variations, the other three living in Central and South America)
Ellen Weed was Frank's life long partner and she participated in all of the animal shows, lectures and photo shoots. Ellen even had a bobcat as a house cat. If you don't believe the writer, check out the photos. Be sure to remember that first impressions don't count. At first you might think Ellen was a little tough to say the least, sleeping with a bobcat. In reality, Ellen had a very special way with all animals, especially the baby critters. Ellen had raised many exotic animals, especially all types of big cats. The Weeds were breeders in the 1950's. 60's,70's and 80's. They were never rich money wise, but the were rich in life's experiences. By far, they were the richest.
A photo shoot was unique at the Weed compound. Frank usually had many big cats, and other critters available for the willing photographer. Frank would even catch wild opossums, raccoons and even poisonous snakes to make sure that the photographer got his money's worth. Shooting at the Weed's was the best deal ever. Frank would release the wild caught critters, sometimes to catch them again for another shoot. By the way, the Weeds were located in the heart of the Everglades, so animals were always hanging around the place. Need an alligator you say? Well Frank would get one for you. Pronto!
More often than not, on a beautiful Florida winter day, you could rub shoulders with a world famous wildlife photographer shooting the animals at the Weed's. Many images of big cats especially pumas were taken at the Weed's. Morris, Frank's favorite puma was probably the most photographed puma in the world.
The Weed compound is overgrown now as the Everglades reclaims its rightful place in the world. The house trailer is dark and damp, the cages are gone, there is an absence of human banter, but Frank and Ellen's spirits live on at the Weed compound. There is still no mistaking the feeling of warmth and great memories that continue to accompany Frank and Ellen's legacy.