Midwest Region


October 23, 2014

Georgia Parham 812-334-4261 x 1203
Phil Delphey 612-725-3538 x 2206
Tamara Smith 612-725-3548 x 2219

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Protects Two Prairie Butterfly Species Under Endangered Species Act

A male Dakota Skipper. Photo by Dennis Skadsen/USFWS

A male Dakota Skipper. Photo by Dennis Skadsen/USFWS

The Dakota skipper is now protected as threatened and the Poweshiek skipperling is protected as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.  Both species are butterflies that depend on prairie habitat and have suffered population declines due to loss and degradation of their native grasslands.

Found in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada, the Dakota skipper’s numbers have declined dramatically; it no longer occurs on  almost 75 percent of the sites where it was previously found.

The Poweshiek skipperling, once found in eight states and Canada, now occurs in only a few native prairie remnants in Wisconsin and Michigan and in Manitoba, Canada.  Surveys indicate Poweshiek skipperlings have vanished from about 96 percent of the sites where they once occurred.  It is uncertain if there are any existing Poweshiek skipperling populations in Minnesota, Iowa and the Dakotas.

Under the ESA, endangered species are plants and animals that are in danger of becoming extinct.  Threatened species are those that may become endangered in the foreseeable future.  The ESA protects listed species from take, which includes harming, harassing, injuring or killing a species.

The Service also published a special “4(d)” rule for the Dakota skipper that exempts take of the species that may occur as a result of certain livestock ranching practices and specified trail and rights-of-way maintenance activities.  The final rule listing the two butterflies and the 4(d) rule for the Dakota skipper appear in the October 24, 2014, Federal Register.

“We recognize the reason we still have any Dakota skippers or Poweshiek skipperlings on the landscape at all is the conservation ethic of ranchers who have had the foresight to conserve grasslands in the Upper Midwest,” said Service Midwest Regional Director Tom Melius.  “Our hope is to continue to work with landowners and partners to conserve these butterflies and the valuable habitat they depend upon.”

The rule listing the two butterflies and the 4(d) rule become effective November 23, 2014.  The Service continues to analyze information received from the public about its proposal to designate critical habitat for the two species, along with an economic analysis of the proposed critical habitat.  The Service expects to finalize critical habitat and the economic analysis at a future date.

For more information on the Dakota skipper and the Poweshiek skipperling, go to

A Dakota Skipper. Photo by Phil Delphey/USFWS

A Dakota Skipper. Photo by Phil Delphey/USFWS



The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen, visit

Connect with our Facebook page at, follow our tweets at, watch our YouTube Channel at and download photos from our Flickr page at

Last updated: June 15, 2016