Photos courtesy of John B.1, Flickr.
Beautiful, chocolate-brown Mitchell's Satyr butterflies used to frequent up to five U.S. states. Today, this species of butterfly can only be found in 19 "fens," a type of unique, low-nutrient wetland area, in southern Michigan and northern Indiana. It's not over yet for the Mitchell's Satyr, however, despite the destruction of habitat areas for urban and agricultural development; contamination from pesticides, fertilizers and nutrient runoff; and threats from invasive species and even butterfly collectors. Not all of us humans are bad.A group of folks called the Michigan Nature Association is working to protect and manage close to 30 fens, two of which are home to the Mitchell's Satyr (pronounced say-ter): the Blue Creek Fen in Berrien County and the Paw Paw Prairie Fen in Van Buren County. The efforts involve prescribed burns to help restore habitat for the rare butterfly and other creatures.
The Mitchell's Satyr has a wingspan of up to 1.75 inches and is distinguished by rows of four to five, orange-ringed, black circular eyespots on each of its wings. This butterfly looks like it's watching you. Thankfully, some people also are watching out for it. You have to watch closely. There are so few of these that they've only been observed a few times in nine Michigan counties since 2008, according to the Natural Features Inventory.
Besides the Michigan association, there's the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and natural resource departments in Michigan and Indiana who've developed recovery and habitat conservation plans for the butterfly (and a host of other species, unfortunately). The MNA has a number of ways people can get involved in helping protect endangered species. It's easier than you may think.
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