Locally extinct butterfly species returned to SF Presidio

"As we continue into the 21st century we're going to be needing to do a lot more of these," says Young.

Video Transcript

- They may be tiny, but you're looking at a big ecological success story. Variable checker spot butterflies that were extinct in San Francisco's Presidio since the late 1970s are now thriving again. The result of a recent project by wildlife managers at the Presidio Trust to first restore their native habitat then reintroduce them to it.

JONATHAN YOUNG: They've taken off. You can see them throughout all of these restored areas of the park.

- Now, Jonathan Young and a team of butterfly experts are hoping to duplicate their success. On a sunny morning, they were combing the Marin Headlands searching for another missing Presidio's species known as California ringlets.

JONATHAN YOUNG: They can be a little elusive. There's a lot of Badger holes you got to watch out for when you're running around.

- But after a few hours, they netted five males and females. After putting them temporarily on ice, it was off to a meadow near inspiration point in the heart of the Presidio. It's part of a restored habitat that's become a critical urban oasis. Stuart Weiss is chief scientist with the Creekside center for Earth observation.

STUART WEISS: We have one of the largest concentrations of threatened and endangered butterflies because we have this coincidence of very intense human development.

- But after hiking a few yards down a grassy Hillside, it was time to release the Presidio's newest residents.

- You are free.

- Within minutes, the winglets were making themselves right at home. The hope is that the females will lay eggs for the next generation. A process that some citizen scientists at a nearby day camp explain for us.

- They like come from like help this little caterpillars.

- The ground the chrysalis and all of them have different patterns.

- When they fly.

- And of the success of earlier reintroductions is any indicator. Wildlife managers are hoping the winglets will soon be reestablished back in the Presidio. And helping to maintain a balanced ecosystem.

JONATHAN YOUNG: And as we continue into the 21st century, we're going to be needing to do a lot more of these.

STUART WEISS: They're the part of the insect world that we can easily observe. And people love butterflies.

- Who doesn't love butterflies? In San Francisco, Dan Ashley, ABC 7 News.