The Nature Conservancy, Washington State Chapter is celebrating the release of rare butterflies in South Puget Sound Prairie Lands.
Has anyone in the Shoreline Area spotted one of these beautiful little jewels?
What butterflies have you spotted here? We can post them on our
Urban Wildlife column.
Send us a photo!
It was just a little stage fright.
As a group of 60 Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies were set free on the
prairies of South Puget Sound this spring, they were hesitant to take flight.
The rare butterflies—known for their orange, cream and black coloring—
lingered in the mesh containers that had been used to transport them
from the Oregon Zoo. Biologists from The Nature Conservancy and
the Department of Fish and wildlife had to coax them out into the gusty day.
“The weather isn’t quite what we wanted, it’s a little cooler and little more
windy than we’d like,” said Hannah Anderson, Conservancy biologist.
(click to see a Draft Report from WDFW)
But as the sun peeked out from behind the clouds, the butterflies
began fluttering around the wildflowers. Some even mated. “They respond
to sunlight like nothing I’ve ever seen,” said Mary Linders, biologist for the
Department of Fish and Wildlife. “Every stage of their life cycle is triggered
by sunlight. It’s remarkable.”
The butterflies were raised at the Oregon Zoo as part of a
multimillion dollar program that aims to bring back endangered
species that have found critical refuge on Fort Lewis.
The Conservancy has been working closely on the project with
partnering agencies like the Department of Defense and Washington
Department of Fish and Wildlife.
Other species involved in the project are the mardon skipper butterfly,
the streaked horned lark and the Mazama pocket gopher; all are candidates
for listing under the federal endangered species act.
Support from Conservancy members allows our biologists
to focus on bringing these rare critters back for all of us to enjoy.
The Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly is on the verge of extinction.
Once found at more than 70 sites from Vancouver Island, BC to the
Willamette Valley in Oregon, it’s now found only at two known locations in
Puget Sound. Their decline is linked to loss of prairie habitat.
“We think only about 3 percent of our native prairies remain in this region,”
As part of the captive rearing program based at the Oregon Zoo,
caterpillars have been released into the prairies for several years in a row.
The 60 adult butterflies released this spring will augment the reintroduced
“We’re seeing a lot of success,” Anderson said. “The fact we’re seeing
adults flying after we put out caterpillars, that’s a really good indication.”
Nature picture credits (top to bottom, left to right): Photo © Jocelyn Ellis/TNC (butterfly on hand); Photo © Katherine Satherr/TNC (butterflies released).