Lucas County's famous Karner blue butterfly could be reintroduced to the 4,000-acre Oak Openings Preserve Metropark as early as July 4, another step toward anchoring its nationally heralded recovery in western Lucas County.
Peter Tolson, the Toledo Zoo's conservation director, told The Blade last night that 300 butterflies are earmarked for the Moseley Barrens Management Unit of the Nature Conservancy's Kitty Todd Preserve. But any hatched beyond that figure will be released on wild lupine growing in the Oak Openings Metropark's Lou Campbell Prairie, he said.
That prairie is separate from the Lou Campbell State Nature Preserve, which the Ohio Department of Natural Resources manages south of the Ohio Turnpike between Eber and Crissey roads.
John Jaeger, Toledo Area Metroparks natural resources director, said the Lou Campbell Prairie, south of Reed Road, has Oak Openings park's densest cluster of lupine.
The wild flower is the only plant that Karner blues feed on and has been making a comeback of its own in that park because of targeted restoration work supported in part by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and other organizations.
Mr. Tolson said he is eager to reintroduce the butterfly to the Oak Openings park. But he said the first priority is to beef up the Moseley Barrens population, which in 2005 became the second Kitty Todd site for butterfly releases.
The first - in 1998 - was 1 1/2 miles away, America's first successful reintroduction of an endangered butterfly. It has been listed as an endangered species since 1992.
"We are hoping to release at the [Oak Openings'] Lou Campbell Prairie this year, but it depends how many hatch out and survive," Mr. Tolson said.
The Nature Conservancy's 700-acre Kitty Todd site is privately owned. The environmental land trust hosts the public from time to time, including an open house during the upcoming 2006 Blue Weekend celebration from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.
Mitch Magdich, Toledo Zoo education curator, said the Karner blues that will be released will be bred in captivity at the zoo in the coming weeks. They will be offspring of Karner blues the zoo periodically gets from west Michigan's Allegan State Game Area, with permission from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
The Karner blue, a Lucas County native, has been the darling of biologists nationwide since it was reintroduced, a symbol for the region's fight against sprawl on behalf of a globally diverse landscape that once spanned across 22 miles of western Lucas and parts of Henry, Fulton, and Monroe counties.
Scott Carpenter, metroparks spokesman, said the Karner blue "is the pinnacle of the restoration effort" at the Oak Openings park.
"If it is able to be reintroduced [at Oak Openings], then a whole range of species will be able to benefit from what we're doing," he said.
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