Rare butterfly back in Willamette Valley refuge

Rare butterfly back in Willamette Valley refuge
A male Fender's Blue butterfly warms in the sun after being released on Pigeon Butte, in William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge on Wednesday May 21, 2014. (AP Photo/The Corvallis Gazette-Times, Andy Cripe)

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The chilled butterfly was slow to emerge from the plastic tube that had housed her a few minutes before in a cooler.
   
Emerging into the sun, she opened her wings, one marked with a blue "1."
   
After a pause, she was in the air, fluttering away on dusty brown wings into a patch of purple Kincaid's lupine.
   
The lupine is a threatened plant species in its own right and a critical host plant for the Fender's blue butterfly, an endangered native of the Willamette Valley almost wiped out by human development. It was declared extinct in 1937 but rediscovered in 1989.
   
The flowers had been planted on Pigeon Butte in the William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge years before, in a separate restoration effort, and their presence makes it possible for the Fender's blue to take hold there, the Corvallis Gazette-Times reported.
   
"This is the first time we've had a planned release of Fender's blue, ever," said Paul Severns, a post-doctoral researcher at Oregon State University, who is using the release as a way to study which species of lupine the butterfly prefers for its eggs and larvae.
   
Severns and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists released "Blue No. 1" and 49 other Fender's blue butterflies Wednesday morning, the third of four releases of butterflies at the site. The releases began May 14 and concluded Thursday.
   
The researchers also released around 40 Fender's blue larvae to the site in April, and some of them have been observed at the site as adult butterflies.
   
Before the reintroductions, there were no Fender's blue butterflies in the refuge, even though the area is part of the species' historic range between Portland and Eugene.
   
The project to reintroduce the butterfly to the Finley refuge in south Benton County included clearing invasive species, often with controlled burns, said Molly Monroe, a federal biologist at the refuge.
   
The funds for the reintroduction and restoration projects are part of a four-year, $650,000 federal grant that has also supported restoration of the Oregon chub, a native minnow that could soon be removed from the endangered species list.
   
The funds also are being used for restoration work to benefit the Fender's blue in Baskett Slough near Dallas.