ALBANY, NY –The Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission announced today a truly exceptional opportunity to view live Karner blue butterflies at the Discovery Center located at 195 New Karner Road in Albany, New York. These particular butterflies were raised as part of a captive breeding program that began in 2009. The endangered butterflies will be available for viewing at the Discovery Center through mid-July. This recovery program is a partnership of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game, and the Alton Farnsworth Middle School.
Adult female Karners are captured from New York sites and immediately transported to the rearing facility in Concord, NH. Eggs produced by these butterflies are raised to chrysalises and returned to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve. The adults that emerge are released into restored habitat to begin new colonies. In many cases these “new” colonies in fact represent the return of this iconic species to the very spots where it was once abundant.
“This is a very exciting, and very limited chance to see this Federally endangered butterfly,” says Discovery Center Director Jeffrey Folmer. “One question visitors often ask is ‘Where can I see the Karner blues?’ These beautiful, but tiny butterflies are rare, hard to spot, live only three to five days and are difficult to distinguish from other similar non-endangered butterflies. We now have 600 of them emerging from their chrysalises one by one and they’re on view until they all emerge.”
According to Christopher Hawver, Executive Director of the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission, “The Albany Pine Bush Preserve is unique. Not only does it support the best remaining example of an inland pine barrens ecosystem in the world, but it is also the place where the Karner blue butterfly was originally discovered. Recovering the Karner blue here represents an important aspect of our conservation mission and a significant aspect of Capital Region history.”
After more than 50 years of decline, the Karner blue has returned to former haunts throughout the 3,200-acre Preserve. This insect, first studied and named by zoologist and renowned author Vladimir Nabokov in 1944, can now be found at 60 sites covering more than 300 Preserve acres. In 1991 when the Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission began managing the Preserve, there were only nine occupied Karner sites that collectively amounted to less than 13 acres of habitat. Since 2008 more than 3,500 Karners have been released at 14 sites across the Preserve; all of these sites continue to produce completely wild, self-sufficient populations. “This year, 400 of the butterflies were raised at the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game’s captive breeding facility, while the remaining 200 were raised in an exclusive program at the Farnsworth Middle School here in Guilderland, New York.”
According to Commission’s Conservation Director, Neil Gifford “the increase in Karner blue habitat is the direct result of the Commission’s efforts to restore this globally-rare, fire-dependent ecosystem. Working in partnership with its state and federal partners, as well as The Nature Conservancy, the Commission has innovated a variety of conservation management techniques, including the use of controlled fires, that are benefitting the Karner blue butterfly and 45 other wildlife Species of Greatest Conservation Need that rely on young forest habitat”. We continue to see other rare species also benefit from our efforts to restore young forest habitat, including a wide variety of birds like the prairie warbler, eastern towhee and brown thrasher” Gifford added. “We have made tremendous progress in restoring the Preserve’s viability for rare and declining wildlife.
Folmer adds “We offer many programs year-round at the Discovery Center and this month we will offer programs for everyone from pre-k to adults that will feature an in-depth exploration of the Karner blue. Some programs will include an educator bringing butterflies out from the animal care room for an even rarer close-up inspection by participants.” Come visit the Discovery Center and learn more about the Karner blue butterfly and the many other amazing wildlife species that also call Albany Pine Bush Preserve their home.
Located within the Capital District Region, the Albany Pine Bush’s gently rolling sand plain is home to a variety of rare plants and animals. The Albany Pine Bush Preserve also creates a special habitat for a number of other rare and unique plants and animals, while providing visitors with an assortment of non-motorized recreational opportunities including hiking, jogging, nature study, cross-country skiing, horseback riding, mountain biking, hunting, fishing and canoeing.
The Albany Pine Bush Discovery Center transforms this globally unique destination into an exciting adventure where learning comes naturally through hands-on activities. As the gateway to the Pine Bush, the Discovery Center introduces visitors to everything that makes the Preserve rare and adventurous. With the help of many volunteers, the Discovery Center offers numerous programs about the ecology, natural and cultural history of the Pine Bush area. Admission is free and program fees are $3 per person or $5 per family. The center is open Tuesday-Friday 9AM-4PM, Saturday and Sunday 10AM-4PM, and on most holiday Mondays and will be open on July 4th. The Discovery Center is also available for private parties and meeting rentals. For more information, visit www.AlbanyPineBush.org or call 518-456-0655.