MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minnesota Zoo has released 700 endangered Dakota Skipper prairie butterflies back into the wild throughout the week.

According to a recent announcement, the zoo’s butterfly conservation team has been conducting the releases in prairies within southwestern Minnesota near the South Dakota border.

“These little butterflies have big stories to tell,” said Dr. Erik Runquist, Minnesota Zoo Butterfly Biologist. “Helping these butterflies return to our prairies helps support other pollinators, wildlife, and our quality of life.”

The zoo and Department of Natural Resources said they will continue monitoring where the 2017-2020 releases occurred at The Nature Conservancy’s adjacent Hole-in-the-Mountain Prairie Preserve (HIMPP).

The group hopes that wild populations will one day be able to repopulate and sustain themselves without additional release efforts. This is the group’s fifth consecutive year releasing butterflies.

The Minnesota Zoo has the world’s only rearing, breeding, and reintroduction program for the globally endangered Dakota skipper.