How an Early Image of Endangered Birds Was a Turning Point for Photographer Moose Peterson


© Moose Peterson

(In March 1986, the Least Bell’s Vireo, a bird species that Moose Peterson had volunteered to photograph, was listed as endangered, and Moose, who was just starting out as a photographer, was about to learn the power of a single image.)

"In the fall of 1986 I got a call from a person at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who told me a story about two elderly gentlemen in Oceanside, California, who went for a walk together each day, " Petersen recalls.

"One morning one of the men came to his friend’s home with a copy of Outdoor California magazine in his hand. ‘You know that little gray bird we hear singing on our walk?’ he said. ‘It’s the Least Bell’s Vireo, and it was just listed as endangered!’ The other gentleman replied, ‘I just walked by that track of forest, and it’s being bulldozed!’ They got on the phone and made some calls, finally reaching the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the bulldozing was stopped.

“The article the gentleman had seen in the magazine was my first-ever published piece, and it was on the Least Bell’s Vireo. The person from Fish and Wildlife who told me the story said, ‘Your photo probably saved the species from extinction.’

“It was from that moment, very early on in my career, that my wife, Sharon, and I knew that one photo could make a difference, and it’s why we have dedicated our lives to the preservation of our wildlife places and wild critters.”