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Oakland County one of the last habitats for a disappearing Michigan butterfly

The Poweshiek skipperling at rest.
Cale Nordmeyer
Four spots in Oakland County are among a handful of remaining Poweshiek skipperling habitats.

One of the 27 Michigan species facing extinction is a tiny butterfly called the Poweshiek skipperling. They are small, about an inch long, and live in native prairie habitats throughout the Midwest.

They were once a common sight in Michigan, but Oakland County is one of the very few remaining places where you can find a Poweshiek skipperling. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Tamara Smith studies the butterfly and joined Stateside to talk about what’s driving the steep decline in population.

Smith said that since the early 2000s, the range of the Poweshiek skipperling has shrunk by around 98 percent. There are now just a handful of remaining prairie habitats in the Midwest where you can find one. While the Poweshiek skipperling’s decline has been one of the most dramatic, Smith says that sensitive species like this one can be a warning sign.  

“With this species, you know, it’s kind of a canary in the coal mine. And their loss might indicate that something else is going wrong within the ecosystem in which they live. And healthy ecosystems are something we all depend on,” Smith explained.

Listen above to hear the full conversation with Tamara Smith.

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