Denman Island Park Butterfly Reserve Receives Wetland Makeover
By Chris Junck, Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team
Some wetland areas of the butterfly reserve in Denman Island Park and Protected Area aren’t staying wet. They may be replenished during the rainy season, only to dry up before summer. Others filled in with plants, including non-native Scotch broom, thistles, and reed, and are no longer wetlands. This is a problem for endangered Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies because some of their host plants need these habitats to remain wet to sustain the plants through the entire growing season.
BC Parks hired specialists between 2018 – 2021 to study the wetland ecology and waterflows in and around the butterfly reserve before developing a wetland restoration plan for the site. Denman Island residents were invited to provide input on the restoration plan during a meeting at the Butterfly Reserve on August 10th. Representatives from the Denman Conservancy Association, Denman Island Parks Committee, the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team, adjacent landowners, BC Parks and wetland restoration consultants attended the meeting. “The on-site discussions were super helpful to refine the plan and incorporate local knowledge of the site,” said BC Parks conservation specialist Erica McClaren.
In early October, the first phase of the plan was implemented in the southwest corner of the butterfly reserve. Wetlands of various sizes, depths, and the length of time they hold water were created to provide habitat for speedwells – an important food and nectar plant for Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies. During the summer, invasive plants were removed and in early November a range of native plants that will benefit Taylor’s checkerspot larvae and adult butterflies will be planted and seeded around newly created wetland sites.
Krissy Brown from the K’ómoks First Nation was the cultural monitor during construction of the wetlands. The BC Wildlife Federation held a Wetland Institute on October 3rd for participants to observe and learn about wetland restoration in action.
“We hope that this work will help maintain the wetlands and we’ll see more Taylor’s checkerspots and other butterflies in the reserve in the future,” said BC Parks area supervisor Derek Moore. The site will be monitored for host plant growth and Taylor’s checkerspot presence in the coming years, and if the project is successful, similar restoration techniques will likely be implemented at other sites in the Butterfly Reserve.
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team and BC Parks wishes to thank the Cowichan Tribes, Halalt, Homalco, K’ómoks, Lake Cowichan, Lyackson, Penalakut, Qualicum, Snaw’Naw’As, Stz’uminus, Tla’amin, We Wai Kai, and We Wai Kum First Nations, for allowing us to restore wetlands in their traditional territories. Several local volunteers, the BC Wildlife Federation, Miranda Cross and Dorian Baker also contributed to the success of this wetland project.
Artist Eryne Donahue’s rendition of restored butterfly reserve wetlands in Denman Island Park and Protected Area.
Public Information Session, August 10, 2021. Photos by Chris Junck
BC Parks conservation specialist Erica McClaren described key components of the wetland restoration plan.
Denman Island residents provided local knowledge of the site and useful comments for refining the plan.
Representatives from the Denman Conservancy Association, Denman Island Parks Committee, the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project Team, adjacent landowners, BC Parks and wetland restoration consultants attended the butterfly reserve site meeting and wetland tour.
Wetland Restoration Plan Implementation
The BC Wildlife Federation Wetland Institute participants in the butterfly reserve on October 3rd during the wetland restoration. Photo by Katy Fulton.
Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly (Euphydryas editha taylori)
Also known as Edith’s checkerspot.
- Historical range was Hornby Island, southeastern Vancouver Island, Puget Trough and to the Willamette Valley in Oregon. In BC, they were once abundant at 10 sites in the Greater Victoria Area, one site each near Mill Bay and Comox, and sites on Hornby Island (including Helliwell Provincial Park).
- They were thought to have been extirpated (became locally extinct) from Canada by 2000 when no Taylor’s checkerspots could be found in their last known sites on Hornby Island despite intensive searches. However, new populations were discovered on Denman Island in 2005 and near Campbell River in 2018.
- It is federally listed as Endangered (COSEWIC, SARA Schedule 1), and is on the BC Red list of at-risk species.
- Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies need open sunny meadows where they can find suitable host plants (food for larvae and nectar producing flowers for adults), such as woolly sunflower, common camas, small-flowered blue-eyed Mary, wild strawberry, sea blush, and yarrow.
- Habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation are major factors in the species’ decline. For example, the meadows along the coastal bluffs in Helliwell Provincial Park became less suitable for butterflies due to invasions of non-native plants and encroaching forests.
- Habitat enhancement work (weeding, selective limbing +/or removal of conifers, re-planting and seeding with native species) has been ongoing in Helliwell Provincial Park for several years.
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project
The Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project is an initiative of the Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team’s Invertebrates at Risk Recovery Implementation Group and our partners. It is a collaborative effort to restore Taylor’s Checkerspot populations in British Columbia through habitat enhancement, captive butterfly rearing and release, monitoring, public outreach, and other activities.
Jennifer Heron (Chair), BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy, Vancouver, BC
Erika Bland & Andrew Fyson, Denman Island Conservancy Association, Denman Island, BC
Deborah Bishop, Denman Island, BC
Menita Prasad, Greater Vancouver Zoo, Aldergrove, BC
Eric Gross & Kella Sadler, Canadian Wildlife Service, Environment and Climate Change Canada, Delta, BC
Crispin Guppy, Entomologist, Whitehorse, YT
Molly Hudson, Mosaic Forests, Nanaimo, BC
Chris Junck, Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team, Victoria, BC
Nicole Kroeker, Parks Canada Agency, Victoria, BC
Suzie Lavallee, University of British Columbia Faculty of Forestry, Vancouver, BC
Patrick Lilley, Private Consultant, North Vancouver, BC
Kristen Miskelly, Saanich Native Plants, Victoria, BC
Derek Moore, Area Supervisor Von Donop Area, BC Parks, Black Creek, BC
Nick Page, Raincoast Applied Ecology, Vancouver, BC
Jessica Steiner, Andrea Gielens, Maja Hampson & Genevieve Rowe, Wildlife Preservation Canada, Toronto & Guelph, ON
Bonnie Zand, BC Conservation Foundation Fanny Bay, BC
BC Conservation Foundation
BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
BC Parks License Plate Fund
BC Wildlife Federation
Denman Conservancy Association
Environment Canada Habitat Stewardship Fund
Garry Oak Ecosystems Recovery Team
Greater Vancouver Zoo
Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation
Hornby Island Community School
Hornby Island Natural History Centre
University of British Columbia
Wildlife Preservation Canada
For more information about the Taylor’s Checkerspot Butterfly Recovery Project, visit: https://goert.ca/activities/taylors-checkerspot/
Project Lead/GOERT Invertebrates at Risk RIG Chair
Invertebrate Conservation Specialist
BC Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy
Public Outreach Coordinator
Taylor’s Checkerspot Recovery Project Team
* More photos available by request