HARRISBURG, Pa., June 14, 2013 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Visitors are invited to see the only population of rare Regal Fritillary butterflies in Pennsylvania on four days in July at Fort Indiantown Gap, near Annville, Lebanon County.
Free guided tours will begin at 10 a.m. on July 5, 6, 11, and 12. Those wishing to attend should arrive at least 30 minutes early to fill out necessary paperwork, attend a mandatory safety and orientation briefing, and receive driving instructions. Tours will last approximately three hours, but attendees can leave earlier if needed.
The tours, which have been offered for more than 10 years, allow the public to see this rare butterfly and its associated habitat on military training ranges, as well as many other natural spectacles on the 17,000-acre military post, which serves as the Pennsylvania National Guard's headquarters.
"Fort Indiantown Gap is one of the busiest National Guard training centers in the country," said retired Brig. Gen. Jerry Beck, deputy commander of the Fort Indiantown Gap National Guard Training Site. "And although the primary purpose of the installation is the training of soldiers for their combat mission, we also place a very high priority being environmentally friendly and conserving precious land and ecosystems for the future.
"Our guided butterfly tours promise to be an exciting and educational afternoon because our biologists are knowledgeable not only about butterflies, but birds, plants and other insects."
Participants should meet at the Fort Indiantown Gap Recreation Center in Building 13-190, located at the intersection of Asher Miner Road, Clement Avenue and Route 443 (GPS coordinates in decimal degrees: North 40.431, West 76.591).
Visitors are encouraged to bring cameras and binoculars and should wear appropriate clothing and footwear for a nature walk on well-maintained or mowed trails. No reservations are required and no rain dates will be scheduled.
The tours also will include information related to current efforts to restore native grassland habitat across Pennsylvania and current efforts to raise Regal Fritillary caterpillars from eggs in a lab with support from the PA Wild Resource Program and in partnership with ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park and Pennsylvania State University. The ultimate goal is repatriating (returning) the Regal Fritillary to areas where they were located in the recent past.
The Regal Fritillary is considered a Pennsylvania responsibility species of immediate conservation concern and is the symbol of the PA Natural Heritage Program. Fort Indiantown Gap is home to 112 Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan priority species. It also provides a wide variety of habitats for 36 species of mammals, 143 breeding species of birds, 34 species of reptiles and amphibians, 25 species of fish, 792 species of plants, and many notable species of invertebrates including 85 species of butterflies and 243 species of moths. The installation also features 1,000 acres of scrub oak and pitch pine barrens and 3,000 acres of native grassland habitat – the largest in the state.
Fort Indiantown Gap is the only live-fire, maneuver military training facility in Pennsylvania. It balances one of the region's most ecologically diverse areas with a military mission that annually supports 19,000 Pennsylvania National Guard personnel and more than 130,000 other states' Guard, military, law enforcement, and civilian personnel each year.
Media contact: Joan Nissley, 717-861-8720
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Military and Veterans Affairs