2023 Small Outlet - Gold

In three stories for WyoFile, a local Wyoming news outlet, Christine Peterson tackled wildlife stories with attention to questions not often explored. In a piece on chipmunks captured for research, she delved into the question of whether surviving animals should eventually be released back into the wild rather than euthanized. Two University of Wyoming researchers argued that even the chipmunks born at their facility had abilities to survive because they were fed wild foods, kept in outdoor pens where they were exposed to predators, and were seldom handled by humans. The Wyoming Game and Fish Department agreed but the university, after consulting with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, eventually said no, saying the animals were no longer capable of surviving in the wild. In a piece about reducing wolf populations – a hot topic in Wyoming and nearby states – Peterson wrote: “Proponents of the cull say too many wolves are on the landscape, and even removing large portions of packs won’t make much impact on overall populations.” But a large study looking at wolves within five national parks across Canada and the U.S. found that while wolf populations may recover quickly, their social structures do not. In another piece, Peterson reported on a young buck deer born of a beleaguered doe after the harsh winter of 2017. The fawn remained stunted, even as a two-year-old, a surprise to researchers. Judge Victoria Gill of the BBC called Peterson’s pieces “smart, engaging, and fun science writing. This was a series that seemed to smuggle wonderful scientific insight into delightful storytelling.” Peterson said she is “committed to connecting people with wildlife in ways that not only surprise them but help them think more deeply about the natural world.”