The most spectacular wild animal photos of the year

The winners of the 2012 Veolia Environnement Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition have been announced — and this year's crop is expectedly great. The competition, which is now in its 48th year, is an "international showcase for the very best nature photography," according to London's Natural History Museum and Wildlife magazine. Here's a quick sampling.

The banner image, called "Crouch, pause, action" shows a bobcat in the midst of the hunt. Photographer Joe Sulik describes the moment: "She was crouched in the long grass, all hunched up, watching for prey. I saw her shift her weight to her hind legs. I knew I had just a fraction of a second to get ready for the shot." And then the bobcat pounced. (Photograph courtesy Joe Sulik, VEWPOY).

The most spectacular wild animal photos of the year

"Midnight snack" (Photograph courtesy Alexander Badyaev, VEWPOY).

The most spectacular wild animal photos of the year

"Last Wild Picture"
(Photograph courtesy Steve Winter, VEWPOY).

The most spectacular wild animal photos of the year

"Flight Path" (Photograph courtesy Owen Hearn, VEWPOY)

The most spectacular wild animal photos of the year

"Snow Pounce" (Photograph courtesy Richard Peters, VEWPOY)

The most spectacular wild animal photos of the year

"The Snow Herd" (Photograph courtesy Vladimir Medvedev, VEWPOY)

The most spectacular wild animal photos of the year

"Living on Thin Ice" (Photograph courtesy Ole Jørgen Liodden, VEWPOY). The entire gallery can be found here. [H/t National Geographic]