Karner Blue Sanctuary

  • Date of Purchase1988
  • Property Area15 ha or 37acres
  • Property ManagerBrenda Kulon
This dry oak-pine woodland is currently ranked by the NHIC as S1, extremely rare in Ontario. Until the late 1980’s this was the home of the Karner blue butterfly. The most notable flower is the wild lupine. Also found here are pipsissewa, large-leaved shinleaf, round-leaved pyrola, prairie ragwort, thyme-leaved sandwort, lyre-leaved rock cress, bearberry, plains puccoon, rough blazing star, cylindric blazing star and butterfly weed. Shrubs include New Jersey tea and narrow-leaved New Jersey tea. Sand-loving Icland lichen is found in “the bowl” and rough fruited panic grass is beside the path.


This 15 ha oak savannah (a threatened ecosystem) is a part of the Port Franks Wetlands and Forested Dunes Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). These lands were purchased in 1988 to protect the last remaining colony of Karner Blue Butterflies in Canada. Despite these efforts, the butterfly was extirpated by 1991.

Location:

pt lots 1, 2 & 3 of plan 13 and pt. lots 16, 18, 19 & 22 of Plan 16, being at the south edge of the community of Port Franks, in the former Township of Bosanquet, now the Municipality of Lambton Shores. Access to the property can be made by going north on the Port Franks road from its intersection with Highway 21, right onto Whatman St, to where it joins Nipigon St. Property area: 15 ha or 37acres. Property Manager: Brenda Kulon.

Access:

This property is located near Port Franks, Ontario. Access to the property can be made by going north on the Port Franks road from its intersection with Highway 21, right onto Whatman St, to where it joins Nipigon St. Property.

Property Features:

The lands are a part of the Port Franks Wetlands and Forested Dunes Area of Natural and Scientific Interest (ANSI). Oak Savanna is the dominant habitat. This is one of the most threatened habitats in North America. Extensive pine planting and the suppression of fire has resulted in the closing of the canopy which has adversely altered this rare habitat.

History:

The purchase of the property was initiated by Brenda and Ben Kulon and Gerry Clements to try to protect the last known population of Karner Blue Butterflies (Lycaeides melissa samuelis), in Canada. The property was owned by Lake Huron Developments Ltd (Martin Maylard), the company which had developed Port Franks Estates. In the fall of 1987 LWI was approached to provide funds to assist with the down payment. The Lambton Wildlife Karner Blue Committee was then formed with the addition of Nan McNair, Joan & Frank Baugh, to raise funds to purchase the lands. Funds were raised from across Canada. Through the work of the Committee, the Karner Blue Butterfly became an important symbol of the need to stop the loss of rare insects. They were only able to meet 25% of the purchase price. The total funding required was provided by the newly formed Carolinian Canada Coalition, which coordinating grants from the Ontario Government (50% through the Ontario Heritage Foundation), Wildlife Habitat Canada (25%) and the Nature Conservancy of Canada (25%). The funds which were initially raised were used for the initial management, including signing and fencing. On July 6, 1988, the dedication of the Karner Blue Sanctuary took place. Brenda Kulon received a Natural History Award from the FON in 1989, for her role in purchasing lands, to prevent development, within some of the habitat of the rare and endangered Karner Blue butterfly.

When the property was purchased, there was still a significant population of the Karner Blue Butterfly which had become extirpated elsewhere in Canada. A survey in 1988 counted 350. The wild Lupine is the only food source for the Karner Blue larvae and the availability of Lupine (which requires a balance of sun and shade) is the ultimate control of the success of the species. By 1991, the Karner Blue Butterfly had become extirpated from this property and from Canada. A succession of major droughts reduced the availability of wild Lupine and there was not enough healthy habitat in the area to withstand that loss. It is also thought that many butterflies were removed by collectors, which made survival of the small population more difficult. A Karner Blue Recovery Team for Ontario was established and Pinery Provincial Park and Lambton Wildlife are represented on that Committee. The current management plan was produced in Feb. 1994 and revised in 1995 and 2001. The goal of that plan is to re-establish, at the Port Franks Karner Blue Sanctuary, one deme of a self perpetuating, sustainable metapopulation of the Karner Blue Butterfly in a healthy, high quality oak savanna habitat. A standard recommendation for the maintenance of a healthy oak-savannah habitat is to have a succession of controlled burns, to reintroduce the beneficial effects of periodic, naturally occurring fires. A number of controlled burns have been undertaken on the property, but the results, in terms of producing a healthy, sustainable Lupine population suitable for re-introduction of the Karner Blue, have not as positive as had been expected. LWI is in the process of initiating a full review of the existing management plan.