Butterflies, Bat Proposed for Endangered Species Act Protection
By Georgia Parham
Three species found in the Midwest Region and beyond were proposed for protection under the Endangered Species Act, in October 2013. The Service is considering listing the northern long-eared bat and two prairie butterflies – the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling.
The northern long-eared bat is found across much of the eastern and north central United States, and all Canadian provinces from the Atlantic Ocean west to the southern Yukon Territory and eastern British Columbia. The primary threat to the northern long-eared bat is white-nose syndrome, a disease that has killed an estimated 5.5 million cave-hibernating bats in the Northeast, Southeast, Midwest and Canada. Populations of the northern long-eared bat in the Northeast have declined by 99 percent since symptoms of white-nose syndrome were first observed in 2006.
White-nose syndrome is a fungal disease known to cause high mortality in bats that hibernate in caves. The fungus causing the disease thrives in low temperatures and high humidity – conditions commonly found in caves and mines where northern long-eared bats hibernate. White-nose syndrome has spread rapidly throughout the East and is currently establishing a foothold in the Midwest. Although there is debate as to how fast white-nose syndrome may spread throughout the species’ range, current model predictions suggest it will likely spread throughout the United States.
The Service also proposed to list two prairie butterflies, the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling, due to steep population declines. The Dakota skipper is proposed as a threatened species, with critical habitat. Found in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada, the Dakota skipper has experienced a dramatic decline in numbers and no longer occurs on half the sites where previously found. The Service is also proposing a special rule for the Dakota skipper that would provide flexibility for landowners and land managers who have Dakota skippers on their property.
The Poweshiek skipperling is proposed as endangered, with critical habitat. This butterfly, once found in eight states and Canada, now occurs only in a few native prairie remnants in Wisconsin and Michigan, and in Manitoba, Canada. Surveys indicate that Poweshiek skipperlings are gone from nearly 90 percent of the sites where they were previously found.
The Twin Cities Field office has lead for the butterfly proposals, while the Green Bay Field Office is in charge of the proposal to list the northern long-eared bat. For more information on these proposals, go to www.fws.gov/midwest/endangered