Carson Wandering Skipper Butterfly Listed as Endangered

For immediate release: August 8, 2002
Contact: Scott Hoffman Black, Executive Director; The Xerces Society; 503-680-4008 or sblack@xerces.org
Photos of the Carson Skipper are available by calling or emailing the number above.

In keeping with a legal agreement the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service listed the Carson wandering skipper butterfly as an endangered species on August 7, 2002. The species was listed on a temporary, emergency basis in November 2001.

The Carson wandering skipper received Endangered Species status because of a listing petition by the Xerces Society, and a negotiated settlement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Center for Biological Diversity.

This beautiful butterfly is found only in Washoe County, NV where five individuals were located in 2001, and in adjacent Lassen County, CA, where just “a few” individuals were seen. In a survey of potential habitat in Lassen County, Xerces Society scientists found only one individual. It is susceptible to immediate extinction due to cattle grazing, wetland degradation, water pumping, urban sprawl, and invasive non-native plants.

A petition to list the skipper as an endangered species was filed by the Xerces Society on November 11, 2000, but the Wildlife Service refused to accept the petition because of an illegal policy banning citizen petitions for species already on the Service’s “candidate” list. Like hundreds of other imperiled species, the skipper had been on the federal “candidate list” since 1984 without being protected.

Background
According to two reports authored by Peter Brussard, a professor at University of Nevada, Reno, the butterfly is at tremendous risk of extinction due to livestock grazing, off road vehicle activity, encroaching development, changes in the water table, and pesticide drift.

Carson Wandering Skipper, Pseudocopaeodes eunus obscurus, has been found near Carson City, Nevada, at Winnemucca Ranch in Washoe County, Nevada, and near Honey Lake in Lassen County, California. The reports state that at the first of these sites the butterfly has been driven locally extinct by development activities.

“The Carson Wandering skipper has a very tight relationship with its host plant (saltgrass) and adjacent nectar sources,” said Mace Vaughan, Staff entomologist for the Xerces Society. “Because its habitat requirements appear to be very specific, it will be important that any suitable habitat is protected and surveyed for the butterfly right away.”

According to the report, the Carson Wandering Skipper probably occurred from Carson Hot Springs to the Carson River prior to the arrival of Europeans.

“We are very pleased that the Fish and Wildlife Service can now take action to protect this butterfly.” said Hoffman Black, an ecologist. “Without immediate action, we will have one less beautiful little butterfly. It would be a sad event to let this species go extinct.”

Description: The Carson Wandering Skipper is a small tawny orange butterfly. The species is closely associated with its larval hostplant, Distichlis spicata var. stricta, (saltgrass). The adults feed on small flowering plants near the larval hostplant.

The Carson Wandering Skipper is one of many pollinators across the country that are in decline because of human activities. Pollination is one of the most important ecological relationships. It is this interaction between insects and plants that holds together the very fabric of our environment, and provides food for us and habitat for wildlife.

The Xerces Society can supply photos of the butterfly in its natural habitat.

For additional information on the butterfly contact Peter Brussard (775)-784-1360 and Dennis Murphy (775) 784-1303 at the University of Nevada at Reno, George Austin (702)-486-5205 at the Nevada State Museum in Las Vegas and Robert D. Williams Field Supervisor, Nevada Field Office, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (775) 861-6300


The Xerces Society • 628 NE Broadway Ste 200, Portland OR 97232 USA • tel 855.232.6639 • fax 503.233.6794 • info@xerces.org
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