Service Provides Endangered Species Act Protections for the Hermes Copper Butterfly

Press Release
Service Provides Endangered Species Act Protections for the Hermes Copper Butterfly

Citing a significant population decline and ongoing threats of habitat loss and fragmentation resulting from mega wildfires and other factors, today the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the listing of the Hermes copper butterfly as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Approximately 35,027 acres of land in portions of San Diego County is being designated as critical habitat for the species.

“The Hermes copper butterfly is one of several threatened or endangered butterflies in our region,” said Paul Souza, regional director for the Service’s California-Great Basin Region. “We are also issuing a special rule that will provide flexibility for our partners engaged in important wildfire prevention and species research activities while providing protection for this rare butterfly.”

The 4(d) rule identifies certain activities that will be exempt from the prohibition of ‘take’ under the ESA. These include habitat restoration, species research, captive rearing for reintroduction and management of fuel breaks to reduce wildfire threats. This rule tailors protections for the butterfly while allowing activities that do not harm its recovery.

The Hermes copper butterfly is only found in San Diego County and northwestern Baja California, Mexico. Of 95 documented historical occurrences in the county, only 26 are known or presumed to still be occupied. The status of the Hermes copper butterfly occurrences in Mexico are unknown.

Hermes copper butterflies lay their eggs exclusively on spiny redberry bushes that grow in coastal sage scrub and chaparral habitats. The primary nectar source for the adult butterflies is California buckwheat. Hermes copper butterflies are brown with orange on the upper wings and have yellow undersides with black dots.

Other threatened and endangered butterflies in Southern California include the Palos Verdes blue butterfly, El Segundo blue butterfly, Laguna Mountains skipper and Quino checkerspot butterfly.

The final rule is on public inspection today at the Federal Register. The final listing rule will be published in the Federal Register on December 21. The public can find the rule and supporting information at by searching under docket number FWS–R8–ES–2017–0053.

Images of the butterfly and its host plant are available on the Service’s Flickr page: Hermes copper butterfly album.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information about our work and the people who make it happen, visit the California-Great Basin website or connect with us via Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Flickr.