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Oregon Zoo releases hundreds of endangered butterflies

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PHOTO CREDIT: Derek Ramsey / MGN

PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Zoo, along with biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, released hundreds of endangered butterflies to the wild.

In February, after a 7-month long nap, zoo conservationists woke up more than 500 Taylor’s checkerspot larvae and transferred them into rearing cups at the zoo’s Imperiled Butterfly Conservation Lab.

Zoo staff say they released the growing caterpillars on prairies in central Washington last week.

The caterpillars will complete their development in the wild, first turning into chrysalides and then emerging as adult butterflies, helping to stabilize declining populations of the Taylor’s checkerspot.

“Releasing caterpillars reared at the zoo is part of our ongoing effort to reestablish this imperiled species at sites where it was once abundant,” said Mary Linders, a species recovery biologist with WDFW. “Without large, connected populations, the butterflies struggle to survive.”

The Taylor’s checkerspot has now lost 99 percent of its grassland habitat to agriculture and urban development, according to the zoo’s release.

Since joining the recovery effort in 2004, the Oregon Zoo has raised nearly 19,000 Taylor’s checkerspots.

“We’ve started seeing Taylor’s checkerspots at locations where they haven’t been documented in years,” Linders said. “It gives us hope for a species that is very close to disappearing completely.”

To learn more about the Oregon Zoo’s effort to save Taylor’s checkerspots, visit www.oregonzoo.org/conserve/species-recovery-and-conservation.