Federal wildlife managers on Monday pronounced two South Florida butterflies likely extinct.
The announcement from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service came after surveys going back more than a decade failed to find any Zestos skippers or rockland grass skippers.
Larry Williams, the service’s regional supervisor for ecological services, said in a statement that he hoped the loss “serves as a wake-up call that we really need to intensify our efforts to save other imperiled butterflies in South Florida.”
The two varieties were among at least 18 tropical butterflies in South Florida considered at risk from a host of threats, from development to pesticide spraying.
Because neither subspecies was on federal list of endangered species, wildlife managers did not have to make any formal declaration about the two skippers. But after consulting with the multiagency Imperiled Butterfly Working Group, which is developing recovery plans for other South Florida butterflies, the agency said it had concluded both were likely extinct. Though similar varieties exist elsewhere in the Caribbean, both skippers were distinctive subspecies once found only in South Florida and the Florida Keys.