The endangered Karner blue butterfly, which is found in parts of Albany and Saratoga counties, came in a close second in student voting to name a state butterfly.
New York has a state bird (bluebird), a state flower (rose), a state mammal (beaver), even a state saltwater fish (striped bass), but no state butterfly.
So Assemblywoman Sandra R. Galef, D-Ossining, asked third-, fourth- and fifth grade students from many parts of the state to vote for their favorite butterfly in November from among five choices.
Nearly 35,000 students participated. A total of 12,461 students voted for the Red Spotted Purple, also known as the White Admiral butterfly, to be the official New York State butterfly.
This butterfly, which is found across the state, has two names because it has different coloring in the southern and northern parts of the state.
The Karner blue butterfly, the quarter-sized blue butterfly on both the state and national endangered species lists, came in second with 11,489 votes, according to Galef.
“I’m sorry too,” Galef said on Tuesday about the Karner blue losing the campaign.
She said Karina Franke, a fourth grade student at Furnace Woods Elementary School in Cortlandt Manor, was responsible for the student vote that occurred near Election Day.
Last year, Franke asked Galef, a former teacher and 15-year state assemblywoman, to name the Karner blue butterfly the state butterfly.
“By adopting the Karner blue as state butterfly, more people will become aware of the dangers the Karner blue faces,” Franke writes on her Web page.
But Galef thought a student vote, like the one that named the snapping turtle the state reptile, should be held.
Galef consulted professionals at the Bronx Zoo and the Museum of Natural History to find out which butterflies are most prevalent in New York state.
She came up with a list of five butterflies.
The other butterflies on the list — Black Swallowtail, Milbert’s Tortoiseshell, the Mourning Cloak — received far fewer votes than the Red Spotted Purple or White Admiral and the Karner blue, Galef said.
“I demand a recount,” joked state Assemblyman Roy J. McDonald, R-Saratoga. “I don’t think they got all the outer precincts.”
McDonald applauded Galef for sponsoring the fun and educational program on butterflies.
The Karner blue butterfly is close to McDonald’s heart because the former Wilton town supervisor was instrumental in creating the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park more than 10 years ago.
One of the major goals of the preserve and park is to protect the Karner blue and its habitat, the blue lupine wildflower.
The 1,000-acre preserve and park is located on rolling, open land in Wilton east of the Northway.
The same type of sandy, pine barren soils that make this an ideal habitat for the Karner blue make the Albany Pine Bush another place the Karner blue can be found.
McDonald said Galef’s initiative in getting schoolchildren involved in looking at nature and butterflies accomplished what she wanted to do.
“It was a great educational project,” Galef said on Tuesday.
She said she and state Sen. Vincent Leibell, R-Westchester County, will work on a bill naming the Red Spotted Purple or White Admiral the state butterfly this legislative session in Albany.
The assemblywoman and senator will also be introducing a bill encouraging the protection and propagation of the Karner blue butterfly.
“We do care about the Karner blue and its future,” Galef said.
Sarah Clarkin, executive director of the Wilton Wildlife Preserve and Park, said Tuesday she, too, was disappointed the Karner blue didn’t win the election campaign.
“Had the Karner blue won, it would have been a wonderful representative for New York,” Clarkin said.
She said at one time the Karner blue butterfly could be found as far south as Brooklyn and as far west as Tonawanda near Buffalo.
“It was found across the state in pockets of appropriate habitat,” Clarkin said.