The Dakota Skipper butterfly is considered extinct in states like Illinois and Iowa. North Dakota seems to house the only semblance of a stable population of the endangered insect. The Minot Daily recently reported that Ron Royer, a professor at Minot State University, is concerned about the declining population of this species after he observed it last summer. Royer, the self-proclaimed “butterfly man”, feels that the skipper should be listed under the Endangered Species Act.
The Endangered Species Act is an environmental law that was passed in the 1970s by President Nixon. The act protects ecosystems that the species listed in it depend upon in order to survive. Since McKenzie County is the area that Royer cites as a hotspot of activity for the butterfly, most would jump to blame the oil industry for the decline in skipper population. However, Royer does not believe that is the main cause of the decline in the butterflies’ population. The Minot Daily reports, “Given the intense oil development, one would think, ‘There’s no way on Earth, no way in the world they would survive,’ he said. ‘But I don’t know if oil activity, if managed intelligently, is that much of a problem.’”
Invasive weeds and a heavy growth of unwanted bushes in the insects’ native grass is a much larger threat. The Dakota Skipper has a lifespan of three weeks during June and July. They are usually found in natural tall grass and prairie grass. North Dakota currently has the largest population of the butterfly.