October 30, 2020
Claire Oswald

From an Aspiring Conservation Photojournalist

When I was younger, I dreamed of being a veterinarian. Growing up, we had a full house with two dogs and two cats in this small coastal town. Any chance I got, I would run down to the beach to explore every nook and cranny of the shoreline and rocks. I would observe the smallest critters in the tide pools and watch the waves rolling in and out during the tide changes. I found at a young age that there’s this unspoken language that exists between humans and animals — a language that speaks of understanding, coexistence, and love, all without a single word being exchanged. I also realized I had a fear of needles, so I couldn’t become a vet. Instead, my career path shifted to focus on other ways of helping animals.

Claire Oswald photographing in Yukon Territory
Claire Oswald / Claire Oswald Photography / IG: @claireoelizabeth
Claire Oswald in Yukon Territory

Four years ago, I began my journey of self-discovery. I had freshly started my photography career and I set-off on a trip to six national parks to photograph for up-and-coming outdoor brands. I fell in love with visual storytelling excited to capture experiences through my eyes within a single shot and evoke emotion in whoever was looking at my photographs from the other side.

Bison laying by Old Faithful in Yellowstone National Park (ethically photographed)
Claire Oswald / Claire Oswald Photography / IG: @claireoelizabeth
Bison laying by Old Faithful, ethically photographed

While on the road, I took to photographing nature, landscapes, and wildlife. I felt humbled by the grandness of the mountains, lakes, forests, and bison. I even caught the first snowfall in Yellowstone in one of the more remote areas of the park. I set up my camera kit and started to timelapse the change in weather when I felt something… Someone… watching me. I slowly turned around to see if I had a visitor, and sure enough, I locked eyes with a grey wolf. He was scouting me. And there we were, together, watching each other, in Lamar Valley, speaking that unspoken language before he continued on his journey into the valley. It was then that I decided that I had found what I was looking for — my purpose. I fell in love with educating and inspiring friends, family, and basically anyone who would listen about the protection of wolves. It became my mission to change the narrative of their story.

Gray wolf in snow
NPS

After my trip, I started to participate in small fundraising and awareness efforts for #SaveBCWolves, which aims to reverse the wolf culling program in British Columbia. I stumbled upon Ronan Donovan and Bertie Gregory, studied Cristina Mittermeier and Paul Nicklen, and followed closely the efforts of Pacific Wild, spearheaded by Ian McAllister. During all of my research, hours of watching documentaries, and building my photography business, I heard about the efforts to reintroduce wolves into Colorado. This. This was exactly the story I knew I needed to tell.

With hundreds of thousands of signatures, Proposition 114 was added to November’s Colorado ballot. On November 3, a vote “yes” would direct Colorado Parks and Wildlife to develop a plan to restore and manage gray wolves, and to take the steps necessary to begin reintroductions by the end of 2023.

Within the past 25 years, we’ve seen the cascading effect on ecological change with the reintroduction of wolves into Yellowstone National Park. It has been heralded as one of the most successful conservation initiatives to date — ungulate population control, healthier prey populations, improvements on water quality, distribution of food sources, and restored vegetation. But wolves aren’t able to make it back to the wilds of Colorado on their own. Colorado represents the best remaining, unoccupied habitat for wolves, but outside of national park boundaries, wolves aren’t protected in Wyoming or other surrounding states.

Gray wolf in snow Yellowstone National Park
Jim Peaco/NPS

On November 3rd, we Coloradans must make a decision. We have the opportunity to fix the missing link of wolf connectivity in an area where wolves once historically thrived. As a state, we pride ourselves on maintaining healthy ecosystems and value wildlife. So, let’s bring back the apex species that directly contribute to creating healthier habitats.

Get to the polls on Election Day! Check your registration, register to vote if you’re not already registered, and find your polling place to vote in person or drop your ballot off November 3rd. Please help restore the howl to Colorado by voting YES on Prop 114!

Author(s)

Claire Oswald headshot

Claire Oswald

Photographer

Claire Oswald is a visual storyteller, photographer, and creative director specializing in outdoor lifestyle content based in Denver, Colorado

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