APPLE VALLEY, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Zoo is working to save endangered butterfly species that are native to the state but facing serious population declines.

The Dakota Skippers and Poweshiek Skipperlings are both native species experiencing a rapid decline that zoo officials are targeting for helping, KARE-TV reported Friday.

“So when we hear the word endangered species we often think about species that are far away,” zoo butterfly conservation specialist Cale Nordmeyer said. “The Dakota Skippers and the Poweshiek Skipperling, really, we are in triage mode. So species like the Poweshiek Skipperling, maybe global population – fewer than a 150 animals left. And right now we have about a third of that at the Minnesota Zoo.”

Nordmeyer said it’s crucial not to lose the species forever.

“We’re really close to that happening,” Nordmeyer said. “Butterflies like the Poweshiek Skipperling and the Dakota Skippers represented at some point some of the most numerous butterflies in the Minnesota prairies. With the decline in prairies we’ve also seen a decline in these species and they’re declining at a fast rate, if we don’t intervene, we’ll just lose them.”

Nordmeyer spends his time behind the scenes at the Minnesota Zoo on a conservation program.

“It’s the most rewarding part of my career,” Nordmeyer said. “We did this to get them back out into the wild.”

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