The Minnesota Zoo will release around 700 endangered butterflies into the wild this week.
As part of Pollinator Week at the zoo, the zoo’s butterfly conservation team, along with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy, will release Dakota skipper butterflies into the wild.
This year marks the fifth year the zoo has released the butterflies. It is also the first year the butterflies will be released on state-managed lands.
The release will take place at Hole-in-the-Mountain and Altona wildlife management areas in southwest Minnesota, which are managed by the DNR.
The Minnesota Zoo’s program is the only one of the world to rear, breed and reintroduce the Dakota skippers back into the wild. The butterflies, once prominent in Minnesota’s prairies, have seen their range disappear by more than 75%.
Last year was the first year of the reintroduction efforts that it was confirmed the butterflies were repopulating on their own.
“These little butterflies have big stories to tell,” said Erik Runquist, Minnesota Zoo Butterfly Biologist, in a statement.
“Helping these butterflies return to our prairies helps support other pollinators, wildlife, and our quality of life. Our hope is that we can continue to build on successes and re-establish populations throughout the Hole-in-the-Mountain region.”