1,200 Oregon Zoo caterpillars head to Washington to become butte - KPTV - FOX 12

1,200 Oregon Zoo caterpillars head to Washington to become butterflies

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Courtesy Oregon Zoo Courtesy Oregon Zoo
Courtesy Oregon Zoo Courtesy Oregon Zoo

More than one thousand caterpillars just hit the road after snoozing for seven months at the Oregon Zoo.  

Zoo staffers, with the help of biologists from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, released 1,219 Taylor’s checkerspot caterpillars onto prairies in central Washington Thursday.

The caterpillars were awoken last month from their dormancy as larvae at the zoo in preparation for the move.

The release in Washington aims to reestablish checkerspot butterfly populations in the state, where some of the best butterfly habitat in the region remains.

“The Taylor’s checkerspot is one of the Northwest’s most beautiful — and most endangered — butterflies,” said Mary Linders, a species recovery biologist with WDFW. “Releasing caterpillars reared at the zoo is part of our ongoing effort to reestablish this imperiled species at sites where it was once abundant. Without large, connected populations, the butterflies struggle to survive.”

But not all of the zoo’s caterpillars made the trip north.

Another 165 larvae stayed at the zoo to complete their transformation into adult butterflies there. Once they become butterflies, those 165 will breed, lay eggs and produce caterpillars for release next year.

Since 2004, the zoo has raised more than 23,000 checkerspot caterpillars for release. The effort hopes to combat the species’ listing on the U.S. Endangered Species While they were once abundant across Pacific Northwest inland prairies, Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies have now lost 99 percent of their grassland habitat.

The zoo said keeping the butterfly populations up helps with restoration of their high-quality native prairie habitat and also benefit several other species associated with the ecosystem.

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