The Poweshiek Skipperling is a small brown and orange butterfly that has been a part of our prairie identity. Discovered about 150 years ago, the species was first recorded in Manitoba in 1985, and was once locally abundant in the southeastern part of the province. However, over the last 15-20 years, the Poweshiek Skipperling population has noticeably declined and the butterfly has now been placed on the Endangered Species List.
One of the major factors in the rare butterfly’s decline is loss of habitat. The skipperling lives in the tall-grass prairie ecosystem, which has drastically reduced in size due to various types of development. Now only 1% of the tall grass prairie remains in North America – with one of the largest remnants owned and cared for by the Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) and its partners as part of the Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. The Manitoba Tall Grass Prairie Preserve is nearly 5,000 hectares in size and is located only an hour south of Winnipeg, near Vita, Manitoba.
RESEARCH AND CONSERVATION MANAGEMENT
Dr. Richard Westwood, Professor, in the Department of Biology and Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences at The University of Winnipeg, has been spearheading research on the conservation of the Poweshiek Skipperling for almost 20 years. The Poweshiek Skipperling is quite elusive with the adult butterfly only active for approximately three to four weeks between the months of June and July, so the opportunity to conduct much of the research is limited to a very small window. Dr. Westwood isn’t alone in his research for answers.
“We are fortunate to have such an engaged group. In partnership with the Nature Conservancy of Canada and my dedicated team of student researchers, we have been able to gain a greater understanding of the skipperling and its behaviour,” says Dr. Westwood.
“This information is critical to finding ways in which we can reverse the trend of their steep decline in population.”
NCC relies on the best available science to inform multi-faceted recovery of Poweshiek Skipperling, including the protection and management of the high-quality tall-grass prairie that the species depends on. The organization also supports research examining genetic diversity, captive rearing, threats, land management, climate, and landscape context.
Saving this endangered species is no small task! The University of Winnipeg and NCC work closely to coordinate their efforts with other Canadian and American conservation agencies and experts.
Loss of habitat is a major factor in the decline of the Poweshiek Skipperling’s population. However, we must work fast to understand why populations continue to shrink, even in protected areas like the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve. Time is running out for this little butterfly.
Ecosystems operate in an extremely complex manner. The consequences of a disruption or disappearance of any of its animals or plants, like the skipperling, can lead to changes that are impossible to fully understand until it’s too late to reverse. It is critically important that we find a way to save our tiny four-winged friend to keep it from going extinct. This will benefit the skipperlings’ surrounding environment and the other creatures and plants that share this delicate and unique habitat.
BECOMING A PARTNER IN CONSERVATION
The University of Winnipeg and the Nature Conservancy of Canada have joined forces to prevent the extinction of the Poweshiek Skipperling in Manitoba. Time is of the essence and there is no room for delays in our work.
Please join us in our efforts to save the Poweshiek Skipperling by supporting critical research and recovery activities and by sharing this page with others. Your gift will make a big difference in ensuring this crucial work can continue without delay. You will also be helping students gain important hands-on experience in their field of study. All donations are tax deductible.
If you don’t want to make a gift online, you can also send a cheque to:
The University of Winnipeg Foundation
901 – 491 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, Manitoba, R3B 2E4, Canada
Call toll-free: 1.866.394.6050
*Note: Please make sure to make your cheque “Poweshiek Skipperling” and your gift will be counted towards this important initiative!
Learn more about Poweshiek Skipperlings here.
Find directions to the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve Interpretive Centre here.