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PHOTOS: Endangered Butterfly Release in San Mateo County

Bay checkerspot butterflies reintroduced in Redwood City's Edgewood Park in an effort to counteract local extinction.

On Tuesday, the endangered Bay checkerspot butterfly received a boost when San Mateo County park rangers and scientists released adult butterflies and larvae into 15 acres at Edgewood Park, a county park and natural preserve in Redwood City.

According to the county, local efforts to restore the species have been in place for the last decade since the Bay checkerspot butterfly became extinct in San Mateo County in 2002 due to a decrease in its host plant, the dwarf plantain.

Exhaust fumes containing nitrous oxide and ammonia from cars driving on Highway 280 contributed to the butterfly's extinction by acting as a fertilizer to non-native grasses, according to research conducted by ecologist Stuart B. Weiss. As a result, the non-native grasses crowded out the native wildflowers which supported the butterfly, Weiss found.

In an effort to restore the local Bay checkerspot butterfly population, San Mateo County Parks implemented a rotational mowing program.

“An added benefit of the restoration is that the native carpets of wildflowers have been restored,” said Ranger John Trewin.

“We ask people to stay on trails to protect the sensitive habitat but the views from those trails are spectacular," he said. "One day when the butterfly population multiplies and has a chance to reestablish itself over the next few seasons, visitors may be able to see adult butterflies fluttering about.”

Funding to release the butterflies was obtained through a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Partners in the restoration effort include Creekside Center for Earth Observation, San Mateo County Parks Foundation, United States Fish and Wildlife Service, Pacific Gas & Electric Company, the Jiji Foundation, and the Friends of Edgewood.

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