The Laguna Mountains skipper (Pyrgus ruralis lagunae) once occurred across the Palomar and Laguna mountains, but drought and prior private land management practices resulted in the extirpation of the tiny butterfly from its namesake Laguna Mountains, leaving only a few small, isolated populations of the species on Palomar Mountain.
Since the butterflies can’t fly long distances between the mountain ranges, our biologists are partnering with the Cleveland National Forest, Osborne Biological Consulting, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, and Wildspring Ecology to reintroduce the endangered butterfly to its historic habitat on the Laguna Mountains.
More than 400 larvae reared in captivity at the San Diego Zoo were recently transported in protective containers and carefully placed on their host plant, Cleveland’s Horkelia (Horkelia clevelandii), at two sites on the Palomar and Laguna mountains in San Diego County. This is part of a multi-year effort to reintroduce the species on the Laguna Mountains, while restocking the existing population on Palomar Mountain where butterflies were collected as a source for rearing at the zoo.
The Service also received $100,000 from President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act to help recover this species and two more Southern California butterflies – the recently listed Hermes copper and threatened Quino checkerspot – through more captive rearing at the San Diego Zoo.
The funding announcement comes as the Service celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act and its importance in preventing imperiled species’ extinction, promoting the recovery of wildlife, and conserving the habitats upon which they depend.
The ESA is extraordinarily effective at protecting species and inspires strategic, prioritized recovery actions through partnerships.
Almost every single species that has been protected by the ESA is still with us today, and more than 100 species of plants and animals have been delisted due to recovery or downlisted from endangered to threatened because of their improved conservation status.
You can find more stories about endangered and threatened butterflies in Southern California on our website.