Reintroducing Wildlife: 5 Species for Hope

A tiny Karner blue butterfly sips from a lupine flower in New Hampshire, while far away a California condor soars over Big Sur. Meanwhile, a Texas horned lizard snags its first wild ant, and a weasel-like fisher climbs a tree in Washington’s Cascades. Arctic grayling may once again swim their native waters in Michigan. All five wildlife species could have gone extinct without extraordinary conservation by committed people to reintroduce them to the wild, but today they are making a recovery. The future of that work hangs in the balance.

Will you release hope into the wild? On October 17th, Congress will hold a hearing on Recovering America’s Wildlife Act—the most significant investment in wildlife conservation in decades. TAKE ACTION!

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Saving Wildlife From Extinction Can’t Wait Until Later

Equipped with modern technology, state wildlife agencies are teaming up with partners, especially zoos, to reintroduce rare wildlife and restore their habitatsー which are often the limiting factor to their ability to thrive.

Here’s the problem. Every year, state wildlife agencies and their partners scramble for dollars, even as the wildlife crisis accelerates. Without sufficient federal funding in place to prevent the decline of at-risk species, state resources are being stretched to breaking.

We can’t save endangered wildlife and prevent others from sliding toward extinction with piecemeal funding. Today, federal dollars add up to only five percent of what’s needed to prevent wildlife from becoming endangered.

The recently published science on birds adds to the urgency. North America has lost 3 billion birds since 1970. The solution? As the 2019 State of the Birds report specifically urges—pass Recovering America’s Wildlife Act.

California condors soar in thermals overhead
California condors soar in thermals overhead. Credit: David Rein

No more Singing the Blues for the Karner Blue Butterfly

The Karner blue butterfly’s journey of return shows what state wildlife agencies can do for many rare species that desperately need attention.This butterfly lives only in pine barrens, oak savannas, and dry grasslands of the upper Midwest and Northeast, and their caterpillars munch only on the leaves of the lupine wildflower.

The loss of its wild homes to development and the suppression of fires that maintain the natural communities that support it sent the butterfly tumbling toward extinction. Only a few habitat pockets remained when the Karner blue gained protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1992. Since then, state wildlife agencies, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, zoos, and other partners have raised captive butterflies and restored their homes— with the added benefit of also helping species such as eastern whippoorwill, Blanding’s turtles, and frosted elfin butterflies.

A Karner blue butterfly in New Hampshire
A Karner blue butterfly in New Hampshire.
Like the monarch butterfly, the Karner blue butterfly is picky. Both depend on a special host plant for caterpillars to eat. For the monarch, it’s milkweed. For the Karner blue, it’s wild lupine. Credit: Denyce Gagne

In Concord, New Hampshire, school children have grown and planted wild lupine on 300 acres of restored habitat near the airport for two decades. The “Kids for Karners” program witnessed the return of the Karner blue from none to about 3,000 after many releases of captive-reared butterflies.

The story isn’t over in New Hampshire. It takes continuous management to replicate natural processes like fire to maintain the open prairies. That’s true for Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana, which also host Karner blue butterflies. The lesson? Recovery takes commitment.

Will you commit to acting on behalf of the Karner blue butterfly and all species in need? The Recovering America’s Wildlife Act is gaining steam with more than 100 cosponsors and both parties strongly represented.  With your help we can double that number. ACT NOW.

With your help, future generations will know the Karner blue butterfly and the other four species for hope:

California Condor

Still critically endangered, the 488 condors living today descended from 27 birds brought into captivity in 1987. Today, 312 fly in the wild in California, Arizona and Utah, and Baja, Mexico. Their survival depends on state wildlife agencies and partners intervening on their behalf.

Lead poisoning in the carcasses they eat remains a major threat.

Texas Horned Lizard

A Texas horned lizard basks in the sun
A Texas horned lizard basks in the sun. Credit: Chuck Duplant

Partnerships are key for states to succeed. The San Antonio Zoo raises and works with Texas Parks and Wildlife to reintroduce the iconic state reptile of Texas to its former homes—working with landowners to provide pesticide-free homes with native harvester ants, a favorite food for the lizards that are listed as threatened in Texas.

Fisher

This wily forest mammal vanished from Washington by the mid-1900s after over-trapping and habitat loss. After a successful reintroduction of fishers to the Olympic Peninsula in 2010, Washington Department of Wildlife and partners are returning fishers to the Cascade mountains.

Arctic Grayling

This spectacular fish once swam Michigan’s rivers until the 1930s, but were wiped out by habitat destruction, unregulated harvest and competition from non-native fish. Today, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and 49 other partners are applying sophisticated techniques for a planned reintroduction. With support, this iridescent beauty will once more grace the riverways.

Arctic grayling swim side by side.
Arctic grayling swim side by side. Credit: Ryan Hagerty / USFWS

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