endangered Monterey county butterfly

Clemence’s Unsilvered Fritillary

Rare resident of the highest peaks in the Ventana Wilderness


Winged Ghost of the Santa Lucias

hill-topping male, Chew’s Ridge, 6/24/11

ovipositing female, Chew’s Ridge, 7/29/11

. . . In the 1960s, the once-common Atossa Fritillary, Speyeria adiaste atossa, was declared extinct in S. California following years of unsuccessful organized surveys.  Today, butterfly enthusiasts fear a similar fate for two conspecifics, S. a. adiaste and S. a. clemencei, distributed spottily in the Santa Cruz and Santa Lucia Mtns., respectively.  In 1998 and 2010, USFWS rejected proposals to list S. adiaste as a federally endangered species, due to lack of population data. 

Consequently, in May 2011, I initiated surveys of S. a. clemencei habitat in the Ventana Wilderness of Monterey County, CA.  Weekly transects at the well-known Chew’s Ridge colony site and brief visits to two other sites in the Santa Lucias yielded a crude population estimate of 500-1,000 adult individuals; surveys in 2012 subsequently refined this estimate.  Population data from these surveys will be submitted to USFWS for eventual reconsideration of the proposal to list the species.

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In profile, the ghost-like appearance (below right) of this rare butterfly may portend its eventual disappearance from ridge-top meadows of central coastal California.  Please read on . . .