Environmental conservationists working with BC Parks are hoping to bring a rare species of butterfly back to its original habitat off of Vancouver Island coasts.
Conservation specialist Erica McClaren has been working with the province on a butterfly restoration project since Spring 2015 with the goal of releasing hundreds of rare Taylor’s checkerspot larvae onto Hornby Island and the surrounding areas in 2020.
The Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly used to roam throughout southern Vancouver Island, but disappeared in the early 1990s due to habitat loss from urban development and an overabundant deer population.
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Since then, the rare butterfly can only be found on private land in the Courtenay area and on nearby Denman Island.
“It’s really exciting to help the recovery of a species,” said Erica McClaren in a statement.
“We’ve been spending five years getting the habitat ready for butterflies to come back and I think it’s time to throw them out there.”
To help prepare Hornby Island’s Helliwell Provincial Park for the butterfly’s return, the provincial conservation team has been clearing conifers and invasive plants in the area and replaced them with plants that provide food and nectar for caterpillars and adult butterflies.
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Depending on how the larvae release goes next Spring, similar conservation efforts could be introduced to Vancouver Island in areas where Taylor’s checkerspots have not been seen for nearly 30 years.
“You don’t want to put them back into an area where they are destined for failure,” said McClaren.
“Hopefully this will give another location where Taylor’s checkerspot can exist, so it buffers their population from possibly being extirpated from B.C.”