PORTER, Indiana — The endangered Karner blue butterfly hasn't been found this spring at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and officials say they're worried the tiny insect could be gone.
Surveys in the late 1990s found more than 1,000 of the butterflies in the park along Lake Michigan but those numbers declined to where only two were spotted last year, U.S. Geological Survey research ecologist Ralph Grundel told The (Munster) Times (http://bit.ly/1BiBMRS ).
Grundel has spent more than 20 years studying Karner blue butterflies in the dunes. When the Karner blue was listed as a federally endangered species in 1992, researchers determined the biggest problem was a loss of the wild lupine plant it feeds on as caterpillars.
Grundel said the early spring and hot summer in 2012, which caused caterpillars to emerge before the plants had grown in the Indiana Dunes. Many of the lupine plants then died during the hot, dry summer.
"It was bad on both ends," Grundel said. The 2012 weather "might have been just enough to push the populations over the brink."
Nicole Barker, executive director of Save the Dunes, said she is "very concerned" the Karner blue might be gone from the southern shore of Lake Michigan.
"Are we losing these species because we're not restoring habitat quickly enough?" Barker said.
The butterflies have been recorded this year in Wisconsin, Michigan and New York and where they were reintroduced in Ohio and New Hampshire.
"We're looking here in Indiana at the possibility of reintroducing it," Grundel said. "The National Park Service would have to decide that."
Information from: The Times, http://www.thetimesonline.com
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