Agencies monitor health of rare butterfly species

taylorcheckerspotIn 2015, biological surveys found small improvements in the outlook for the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly, a species once common in the Pacific Northwest but now listed as an endangered species. The surveys, conducted by Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) and other public and private landowners, found the numbers of this colorful butterfly in 2015 were comparable or higher to previous years’ surveys, lending a some hope for its future survival.

The Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori), has been listed as a state endangered species since 2006 and federally listed as endangered since 2013. The species is found in a few sites, including state and private forestland in eastern Clallam and southeast Thurston counties. The sites where the butterfly completes its entire one-year life cycle are typically small, grassy openings in the forest.

Protective Measures

Since 2007, DNR and WDFW have worked with private and public landowners in a voluntary cooperative approach to protecting the Taylor’s checkerspot. The two agencies review applications for proposed timber harvests and other forest practices near sites where the butterfly is known to live. In 2015, no harvests or other operations proposed near checkerspot-inhabited areas required modifications to protect the butterfly.

Currently, there are 12 known populations of the butterfly in Washington state and the locations where they live are monitored through the state’s Natural Heritage Program, which tracks priority species including the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly. This legislatively funded program also assists DNR in selecting locations for the Natural Area Preserves and Natural Resources Conservation Areas it manages. These areas protect outstanding examples of native ecosystems; habitat for endangered, threatened, and sensitive plants and animals; and scenic landscapes.

Read about a butterfly rearing program at Mission Creek Corrections Center for Women.