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Photo credit: Julie McIntyre, USFWS

Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly (Euphydryas anicia cloudcrofti) | ESA status: none

Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly

The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly is found only in New Mexico’s Sacramento Mountains, in an area of barely more than three square miles.

Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly facts

This delicately patterned orange, brown, and white butterfly pollinates and feeds on a variety of plants, one of its favorites being sneezeweed. But like many other butterflies, it lays its eggs on only one host plant, the New Mexico penstemon, which itself is only found in the Sacramento and Capitan mountains.

Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly habitat

The Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly lives in the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico at an elevation of between 7,800 and 9,000 feet, on scattered patches of a 3-square-mile patch of forest near the town of Cloudcroft.

What are the threats to the Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly?

Climate change

Climate change may spell disaster for this high-elevation species: if either the butterfly or the penstemon shifts its range due to changing temperatures or weather patterns, host and guest may miss each other and the butterfly will vanish forever.


Though Cloudcroft and Otero County have developed a conservation plan for the butterfly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, this plan does not provide the insurance against extinction that the butterfly needs to survive in a changing world. The precarious situation of the butterfly was underscored in 2007 during a debate over spraying large portions of the butterfly’s habitat with insecticide; the spray targeted budworms and looper caterpillars, but could also kill checkerspots. Due to intervention by WildEarth Guardians, the spraying was delayed, but not halted.

Other threats

Livestock grazing, fire suppression, off-road vehicle use, road construction, residential development, exotic weeds, extreme weather, and inadequate state and federal regulations also threaten the butterfly.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to grant this rare and fragile creature the Endangered Species Act protections that could safeguard it from these many threats.

Wildlife Press: Sacramento Mountains checkerspot butterfly