Karner Blue Butterfly and Concord (NH) Pine Barrens Project

Photo: Lindsay Webb/NHFG

Karner Project

Project Goal: To reintroduce the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) in Concord, NH and to maintain the Concord Pine Barrens through habitat management.

Timeline: NH Fish and Game's Nongame Program began restoring the Concord Pine Barrens in 2000 and began releasing captive reared Karner blue butterflies in 2001. Periodic habitat management will always be necessary to maintain the Pine Barrens as a suitable habitat for Karner blue butterflies to survive. Captive rearing of the butterflies will end when the federal recovery goals have been met.

Location: Approximately 300 acres of Pine Barrens habitat in Concord, NH.

Description: In 1999, the Karner blue butterfly was thought to be extirpated from New Hampshire. The last place it was observed was in a power line corridor in Concord. Working closely with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, New Hampshire Fish and Game biologists began collecting Karner blue butterfly eggs at the next closest and stable population in New York. Almost every year New York provides adult butterflies to help maintain genetic diversity in the New Hampshire Karner blue population.

Over many years, captive rearing techniques were established and flying adults were released into the wild. In order to tell which butterflies were released into the wild from the captive rearing lab, and which butterflies make it through the life cycle in the wild, biologists write a number on the butterfly's wing before releasing it into the wild. A mark-recapture survey during the two flying periods allows biologists to estimate the population. In 2005, a new partnership with Roger Williams Park Zoo in Providence, Rhode Island, was established allowing the Zoo to help raise larvae through the pupae stage. The pupae are transported back to New Hampshire where they are either released into the wild or held in captivity for breeding. In 2008, concerns over the New York Karner blue population arose so biologists in NH began captive rearing more larvae in order to give New York pupae to be released back into the wild to augment the wild population in New York at the Albany Pine Bush Preserve.

Habitat management is performed on the Concord Pine Barrens to mimic the historic natural disturbance regimes that maintain Pine Barrens vegetation. Some of the techniques used are controlled burning, brush cutting and planting of native vegetation. NHFG biologists adhere to adaptive management which allows the management techniques to change over time as specific outcomes due to timing and intensity change the result. Controlled burning is performed to reduce leaf litter and duff, reduce non-native vegetative species, and promote sunny and sandy openings for native Pine Barrens vegetation to grow.

"Kids For Karners" started in 2000 as a way to engage area school children in the Karner blue butterfly and Concord Pine Barrens project. Every winter, biologists go into classrooms where they talk to kids from pre-K up through high school age about the project. The students then plant wild lupine seeds and take care of the plants until May when they come to the Concord Pine Barrens to plant their wild lupine plants. In some years, students also try growing other essential nectar plants such as New Jersey tea and blunt-leaved milkweed. High school students have also helped by cutting and piling brush and planting wild lupine and other plants at a nearby business. The New England Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Collaborative, a conservation group initiated by Roger Williams Park Zoo, began volunteering in 2000. This group has helped to grow wild lupine and plant it in the Concord Pine Barrens, volunteered in the captive rearing lab and in the field to cut brush, pick wild lupine seed, and help with trail work.

Albany Pine Bush Preserve Commission
City of Concord
National Wildlife Federation
New England Wildflower Society
New England Zoo and Aquarium Conservation Collaborative
New Hampshire Army National Guard
NH Department of Resources and Economic Development: Division of Forests and Lands
New York Department of Conservation
Roger Williams Park Zoo
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region

Funding: Private donations have provided the foundation for the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program since its inception in 1988. Contributions support the on-the-ground work and also enable the Nongame Program to qualify for additional funding through grants from both the State of New Hampshire and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Donations made to the Nongame Program are matched dollar-for-dollar by the State of New Hampshire up to $50,000 annually. Please help keep this project going by donating to the Nongame and Endangered Wildlife Program. (Click here to donate)

The Nongame Program also receives a portion of proceeds from the sale of the NH Conservation License plate (moose plate) each year. To learn more please visit the NH Moose Plate Program online at www.mooseplate.com.

The habitat management of the Concord Pine Barrens is funded through a mitigation agreement with the New Hampshire Army National Guard until 2010.

Volunteering: Volunteer opportunities to help on this project, including planting wild lupine, brush piling, and helping in the captive rearing lab are usually made available every spring and summer on specified dates. Check your Spring Wildlines newsletter or contact the Wildlife Division at wildlife@wildlife.nh.gov or (603) 271-2461.


  Number of butterflies released (both broods) in the Concord Pine Barrens Number of plants Kids For Karners planted in the Concord Pine Barrens Number of Acres Burned in the Concord Pine Barrens
2000 0 0 0
2001 27 0 0
2002 69 0 0
2003 98 227 28
2004 929 171 0
2005 1337 185 3
2006 926 185 11
2007 903 374 31
2008 2023 300 6
2009 4148 308 20
2010 2660 400 17

More Information:


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NH Fish and Game Dept.
11 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301

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