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Oregon

Hope Takes Flight


Oregon Silverspot Butterflies

See photos of captively reared butterflies released at Cascade Head Preserve.

Rearing Silverspots

Watch a short student film about the Oregon silverspot butterfly captive rearing program.

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Debbie Pickering
Nature Conservancy coast ecologist in Oregon


At a recent conference, ecologist Debbie Pickering sat in the back of a session and heard the speaker refer to her. Even more surprising, she said, was his description: “Debbie Pickering is considered the Jane Goodall of Oregon butterflies.” 

Pickering laughs off the reference. But there’s no doubting her expertise. She started working at the Conservancy’s Cascade Head Preserve in 1989, when clouds of Oregon silverspot butterflies were common.

That didn’t last. Soon, Pickering, in her wide-brimmed hat, combed the coastal prairie for rare sightings.

Cascade Head is one of only five sites where populations of the now-threatened species can be found. For years the population numbers have been slim.

In 1999, the Conservancy partnered with the Oregon Zoo, Lewis and Clark College and others to start a captive rearing program and regularly release silverspot butterflies at Cascade Head. It can take years and, importantly, rigorous efforts to restore grassland habitat, to see a rebound in population.

And this year was unlike any other, with over 1,200 butterflies counted. “These numbers are like I’d seen the first time I was out here,” Pickering said. “It’s amazing.”

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