Endangered Species
Midwest Region



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Conserving Candidate Species

Dakota Skipper


The Dakota skipper is a small, brown butterfly (1-inch wingspan) of the prairies. Like other skippers, it has a thick body and a faster and more powerful flight than most butterflies. Photo of a Dakota skipper.


The Dakota skipper is a candidate for listing under the Endangered Species Act (Act). Candidates receive no legal protection under the Act but the Fish and Wildlife Service works to conserve them so that listing as threatened or endangered is not necessary.


In Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota, the Service and the states are working with private landowners and others to conserve the Dakota skipper's native prairie habitat. Cooperative landowners have allowed us to survey for and study Dakota skippers and some landowners have entered into cooperative conservation agreements.


Photo of a biologist surveying for butterflies in a native prairie.

Research assistant, Brian Simon, is conducing a transect survey for butterflies, including Dakota skippers, in a high-quality, ungrazed tract of tallgrass prairie in Pope County, Minnesota.


Photo by USFWS: Phil Delphey

Conserving Dakota skippers may depend on private landowners as the majority of populations are on private lands. Therefore, public agencies are looking for private landowners who are willing to sell easements or agree to conservation agreements for practices that conserve Dakota skippers and other native prairie species. Easements often simply ensure the continued implementation of existing land uses that are compatible with prairie conservation, such as late season haying.


On public lands and other conservation areas, land managers are using prescribed fire and other land management techniques to conserve Dakota skippers and their native prairie habitats. Fire is a natural component of prairie habitats, but Dakota skippers are vulnerable to fire at virtually all life stages and likely depended historically on recolonization from unburned areas to persist. Therefore, many land managers are ensuring that only a small proportion of Dakota skipper habitat is burned in any given year and are only burning as frequently as is necessary to achieve specific objectives, such as preventing succession from grassland to shrubs or trees.




Last updated: April 14, 2015