MILWAUKEE, Wis.—(ENEWSPF)–May 15, 2015. The Center for Biological Diversity sent a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today urging the agency to investigate a social media video posted last week by a Wisconsin man claiming to chew up and swallow an endangered Karner blue butterfly. Walt Pankowitz, a former Black River Falls city council member, posted a video to Facebook of himself swallowing what he says is the endangered butterfly, which has been federally protected since 1992.
“We can’t sit by and watch people boast online about killing protected species without taking action,” said Tanya Sanerib, a senior attorney at the Center. “The Fish and Wildlife Service must investigate this deranged incident.”
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said on Monday that it is conducting an investigation regarding information it received related to a Karner blue butterfly, but could not provide details. Mr. Pankowitz posted an online comment that “DNR and Fish and Game tried to play morality police and got sent on their way.”
Under the Endangered Species Act, it is illegal for anyone to harm a protected species, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is tasked with enforcing the law. The Act contains provisions calling for civil penalties, criminal penalties, or prison time for violations involving the killing of endangered species.
“We offer rewards to track down and prosecute people who kill endangered panthers or wolves, and rare, endangered insects like this blue butterfly need to receive that same protection,” said Sanerib.
Each year the town of Black River Falls hosts a Karner Blue Butterfly Festival to celebrate the insect. Karner blues are about the size of a nickel; males are brightly colored while females are drab. The butterfly once ranged from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Coast but became endangered due to habitat loss from development and fire suppression. It lives in oak savannah and pine barren habitats, and the caterpillars only eat wild blue lupine. It is likely already extinct in five states and Canada and is now found only in Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin. The butterfly was first identified and named by novelist Vladimir Nabokov.
The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 825,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.