The Oregon Zoo actively works to restore populations of native species in the Pacific Northwest ranging from tiny butterflies to the continent’s largest bird, the California condor.
California condors scavenge and feed on carrion, and once ranged along the entire West Coast of the United States. Their nearly 10-foot wingspan can carry them up to 200 miles in a day. They are revered by Native Americans, one of the zoo’s conservation partners in restoring the condor to its native habitat.
Western pond turtles can live to 70 years. Because they rely on wetlands, they’ve suffered much loss of habitat as humans have drained, dammed or filled their habitat. With new understanding of the importance of wetlands, and conservation efforts by the zoo and its partners, turtle populations have been increasing, from 150 in Washington in 1990 to 1,400 in 2011.
The Oregon spotted frog is the most aquatic native frog in the Pacific Northwest. Like the turtle, it has suffered loss of its wetland habitat, as well as predation by non-native bullfrogs and bass. Since 2007, the zoo has worked with conservation partners to restore frog populations. In 2011, 1,200 were released and 11 egg clusters found at a wild release site.
The Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit is the smallest rabbit in North America, at less than 1 pound. It lives in, eats, and digs in sagebrush. Much of its habitat has been converted to agricultural land; by 2002 the rabbit was nearly extinct. The zoo is working to restore this species, and in 2011, for the first time in more than 10 years, the Washington pygmy rabbit bred and gave birth in its historic range.
The Oregon silverspot butterfly was once found in coastal headlands from northern California to southern Washington. Its larvae rely on a single host plant, the western blue violet. The zoo and its conservation partners are working to revegetate its range with this plant and at the same time, rear and release butterflies to increase wild populations.
Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly once fluttered across prairies west of the Cascade Mountains from British Columbia through Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Today, 99 percent of its range has become farmland, pasture and city. The zoo is breeding and releasing butterflies to build populations and restore the butterfly to remaining areas of its historic range.
Conservation at work
Thanks to the efforts of the Oregon Zoo and its partners, in 2011 the Columbia Basin pygmy rabbit bred and successfully gave birth in its historic range for the first time in more than a decade.