Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office
Pacific Southwest Region
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Mardon skipper
Polites mardon

General Information

Official Status: Candidate, see the candidate listing document for more information

Mardon Skipper Butterfly, Photo Credit: Tom Kogut, USFS

Mardon Skipper Butterfly

Photo Credit:Tom Kogut, U.S. Forest Service

arrow button Photo Gallery for the Mardon Skipper Butterfly

Identifying Characteristics:

The Mardon skipper is a rare northwestern butterfly with a remarkably patchy distribution. This tawny-orange butterfly has a stout, hairy body, and is less than 1 inch across. The upper surfaces of the wings are orange with broad dark borders. The lower surfaces are light tan orange, with a distinctive pattern of light yellow to white rectangular spots. Currently, the Mardon skipper is known from four widely separated regions: the South Puget Sound lowlands of Washington; the southern Washington Cascades; the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon; and coastal hills of northwest California. In California, 2 isolated populations are known, located about 10 miles apart in serpentine-soil grasslands in Del Norte County.

Current Geographic Range:

Mardon skippers typically occur in small grasslands and meadows, where the caterpillars feed primarily on fescue grasses. Most known sites are in small openings within forests or woodlands. The Mardon skipper likely spends its entire life cycle in one location, and it does not appear to be a strong flier, so its ability to colonize new areas is probably limited.

Life History:

General Habitat Characteristics:


Population and Habitat Status:

Most known mardon skipper populations are small, less than 50 individuals. However, the number of documented locations for the species has increased from less than 10 in 1998 to as many as 65 range-wide in 2005, reducing the chance that local changes or events could decimate the species.


The species faces several threats, but the loss and degradation of habitat, as well as random, natural events, appear to be the greatest threats. A main problem for habitat is vegetation changes, caused by overgrazing, encroachment of nonnative and native vegetation into meadows and grasslands, and the succession from grassland to forest, in part due to the suppression of fires.

Conservation Needs:


Related Documents:

No other related documents, other than those listed in the general information section above.

Other Informational Weblinks:


Last updated: April 11, 2011

Arcata Fish and Wildlife Office, 1655 Heindon Road, Arcata, California 95521, USA
Tel: (707) 822.7201 Fax: (707) 822.8411