VERO BEACH (CBS4) – A rare inch long butterfly found only in South Florida has been added to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s “Endangered Species” list.

The Miami blue butterfly is a coastal, non-migratory butterfly. Populations once extended from the Dry Tortugas north along the Florida coasts to about St. Petersburg and Daytona. But a loss of habitat from urban sprawl, pesticides, changes in sea levels and predatory iguanas decimated their numbers.
It was believed they were extinct after Hurricane Andrew in 1992, but a small population was discovered in Bahia Honda State Park in 1999. Conservationists said that population has disappeared and the species only survives now in the Key West National Wildlife Refuge.

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The listing of the Miami blue butterfly as endangered becomes effective on April 6th. Under the Endangered Species Act, an endangered species is any species in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.

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The Miami blue butterfly’s habitat and range are threatened by destruction and modification from human growth. Collection of the butterfly is also a significant threat, and existing regulations do not provide adequate protection. As a result, impacts from increasing threats are likely to result in extinction.

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Under the ESA, it is illegal to kill, harm or otherwise “take” a listed species, or to possess, import, export, or engage in interstate or international commerce of a listed species without authorization in the form of a permit from the Service.