Pawnee Montane Skipper

PI: John Sovell

The Hayman forest fires burned across a large fraction of the historical habitat of the Pawnee montane skipper butterfly (Hesperia leonardus montana) during the summer of 2002 in Colordo’s South Platte River Valley. Multi-year monitoring to understand the trends in the butterfly’s population abundance and the patterns of re-occupation in the fire area are important for conserving this federally threatened species. After seven years, the general trend since the 2002 fire has been an increase through 2008 in the counts of Pawnee montane skippers. Even with this increasing trend, the current number of Pawnee montane skippers counted from all burn categories, 0.98/acre in 2008, is still far below the 2.1 to 3.6 Pawnee montane skippers per acre recorded in the 1980’s, the only other time the population has been sampled. However, it is important to note that Pawnee montane skippers increased substantially on moderate-to-high severity burn plots from 2002 to 2008. The counts increased by over 1000% from 0/acre in 2002 to 0.9/acre in 2008 on the moderate-to-high severity burn plots. This is a substantial increase and suggests that skippers are beginning to reenter the severely burned areas of the Hayman Fire. Continued resurgence of skipper numbers on moderate-to-high severity burn areas would enhance the potential for conserving the butterfly.