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August 26, 2011


Karner blue butterfly population thriving under Fort McCoy vegetation conditions

Karner blue butterflies have thrived at Fort McCoy, and some habitat-management changes will be considered in the installation’s new Karner blue management plan, said Tim Wilder.

PHOTO: A Karner blue butterfly rests on a plant at Fort McCoy. Photo by Rob Schuette
A Karner blue butterfly rests on a plant at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

Wilder, endangered species biologist for Fort McCoy’s Natural Resources Branch, said Karner blue population estimates at both of the post’s major butterfly population centers have exceeded the 6,000-mark threshold required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Karner blue butterflies are a federally listed endangered species.

“Due to the fact that we have continually exceeded the 6,000 population threshold, we are proposing to reduce our survey effort from annually to every other year,” Wilder said. This would save approximately $43,000 over the next five years.

“We are also proposing to remove Core Area designations,” Wilder said.

Specific types of training have been prohibited in these areas since 1996, Wilder said. Removing the Core Area designation will allow training on an additional 65 acres at Fort McCoy.

The Karner blue management plan is being updated and the approval process should be completed sometime this fall, he said.

Karner blue butterflies first were observed at Fort McCoy in the early 1990s. The butterflies need an open habitat, such as the Oak Barrens/Savanna. The Oak Barrens/Savanna also features wild lupine, which is the food for the butterfly’s larval-stage.

Lupine also thrives in savanna habitat, he said. The movement of vehicles through areas may create seedbed conditions that support lupine growth.

Overall habitat to support lupine growth and Karner blue populations is scattered throughout post, so training and the butterflies can easily co-exist, he said.

“A lot of the work we do to support the Karner blue habitats also can support habitats for other species,” Wilder said. “We get a lot of bang for the buck and also are preparing for the future if any other species become federally listed.”

Examples of species that may benefit from this management include the red-tailed prairie leaf hopper, the Frosted Elfin butterfly, the phlox moth, and the western slender glass lizard, he said.

Wilder said the installation also works together with other agencies, such as the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, to promote habitats for Karner blue butterflies and other species in neighboring lands off post.

The combined efforts with other agencies in the neighboring lands/communities to manage Karner blues and other species helps support the Army Community Covenant, he said.

(See related story.)

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