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Female bay skipper. Photo by Charles T. and John R. Bryson CC BY 3.0 us, via Wikimedia Commons.

Service completes status review of the bay skipper butterfly

The bay skipper butterfly does not warrant federal protection as an endangered or threatened species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service concluded, following a status review initiated by a petition seeking to protect the species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and to designate critical habitat.

“We conducted a status review of the bay skipper and actually discovered new populations of the butterfly in Texas and Louisiana and an expanded range of suitable habitat,” said Cindy Dohner, the Service’s Southeast Regional Director. “This is good news for the bay skipper and confirmation of the high-quality conservation work being accomplished by our employees and partners.”

During a limited seven-day survey of potential habitats between the Florida panhandle and Galveston, Texas, the Service found abundant and apparently suitable habitat, and confirmed seven new site records of the butterfly in Texas and Louisiana. Therefore, the Service made its decision, commonly known as a 12-month finding, that listing is not currently appropriate for the bay skipper.

The Service also considered the large extent of coastal maritime habitats along Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida that have not been adequately surveyed for the presence of the bay skipper. Apart from localized impacts of severe tropical storms, the Service was unable to document any persistent or imminent threats to the bay skipper or its habitat. The discovery of additional populations and a wider range for the bay skipper reduces its vulnerability to local population destruction resulting from severe storms or any other random event.

The bay skipper is a small, dusky-orange-and-brown butterfly found only in marshes along the Gulf Coastal Plain. When the Service initiated the status survey, only two populations were historically known, one in Hancock County, Mississippi, and one in Chambers and Jefferson counties, Texas. Threats identified in the petition included vulnerability to extreme weather events, potential sea-level rise, small population size and limited distribution, plus vulnerability of localized populations to pesticide use.

Although the 12-month finding concludes that listing the bay skipper as endangered or threatened under the ESA is not warranted at this time, the Service requests that any new information concerning the status of, or threats to, the bay skipper be sent to the Mississippi Ecological Services Field Office, 6578 Dogwood View Parkway, Jackson, MS 39213. New information will help monitor the bay skipper and encourage its conservation.


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