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Grand Rapids John Ball Zoo and several partners are working to repopulate an endangered Midwestern butterfly

Poweshiek Skipperling
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Poweshiek Skipperling

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service heading captive breeding program.

The Poweshiek Skipperling is about the size of your pinky fingernail.

“It’s a species that was relatively common, say 20-years ago and has just experienced precipitous decline and it’s literally on the brink of extinction.”

Bill Flanigan is conservation manager at John Ball Zoo. He tells us pesticides, the loss of prairie habitat and climate change have contributed to population declines across Upper Midwest and Central Canadian provinces prairies. Currently, small populations have been discovered in Oakland County and Manitoba, Canada.

The Poweshiek Skipperling has a life span of one year. It’s a butterfly for only five to 10 days. As caterpillars they’re green and blend in with the blades of grass they feed on.

“And it’s one of the challenges of working with these guys is that it’s next to impossible to find them in the wild because they’re teeny tiny caterpillars that blend in with the grass.”

Preserving the Poweshiek Skipperling begins with a captive breeding program headed by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Working with Assiniboine Park Zoo in Winnipeg, Canada and Minnesota Zoo, Grand Rapids John Ball Zoo and Michigan State University’s Haddad lab have a breeding target of 4,000 supplementing the wild population.

“We’re hoping we’re going to get to like 2,000 or 3,000 this year, but that’s kind of like our capacity here at the zoo and we’re hoping that’s going to be enough to supplement these wild populations enough that they start breeding on their own.”

The Michigan Nature Association is working toward protecting habitat.

“Life on the Brink,” a short documentary by Michigan Nature Association Service.

The video can be accessed here: https://youtu.be/GZV1JDdJ7So.

Patrick joined WGVU Public Media in December, 2008 after eight years of investigative reporting at Grand Rapids' WOOD-TV8 and three years at WYTV News Channel 33 in Youngstown, Ohio. As News and Public Affairs Director, Patrick manages our daily radio news operation and public interest television programming. An award-winning reporter, Patrick has won multiple Michigan Associated Press Best Reporter/Anchor awards and is a three-time Academy of Television Arts & Sciences EMMY Award winner with 14 nominations.