Save the butterflies: Zoo releases hundreds into the wild

Animals

An Oregon silverspot butterfly drinks from a flower on Mount Hebo, Oregon. (Oregon Zoo/Kathy Street)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – For weeks, butterfly specialists and conservation partners with the Oregon Zoo have been releasing hundreds of silverspots at sites in the coastal mountain range.

It’s an effort to save the Northwest butterfly species, the zoo said.

The Oregon silverspot has been listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act since 1980, and according to the zoo, there are only four isolated populations left.

“Three of the last four silverspot populations would most likely be extinct if it weren’t for this recovery program,” said Travis Koons, who oversees the Oregon Zoo’s silverspot conservation efforts.

Field biologists bring a small number of female silverspots from the wild to the zoo to lay eggs every summer. The eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars, which the zoo said are kept safe during their winter dormancy. In the spring, they wake up and grow quickly.

The program is carried out in partnership with the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo.

The zoo is also working to save endangered California condors, western pond turtles, Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies and northern leopard frogs.

For more information about conservation efforts, visit the Oregon Zoo website.

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