Endangered Prairie Butterfly; Only a Few Hundred Left
A once-common prairie butterfly, the Poweshiek Skipperling (Oarisma poweshiek), is being called a “canary in a coal mine” due to a rapid decline that is prompting researchers from Canada and the United States to try to save it.
Richard Westwood, professor of environmental science and studies with the University of Winnipeg, said the Poweshiek Skipperling once would have thrived from Canada all the way down to Texas - just like the original tall grass prairie. But that habitat has shrunk dramatically.
"The tall grass prairie is probably the most threatened ecosystem in North America. There is only about one per cent of it left," Westwood said.
As a kind of insurance policy, the Minnesota Zoo has collected eggs from some of the females and will be hatching them in a controlled setting. Erik Runquist, butterfly conservation biologist with the zoo, said the goal is to breed a stable population before eventually reintroducing the insects into the wild.