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Contact information
For information on Wisconsin's rare vertebrate animals, contact:
Rich Staffen
Conservation Biologist
For information on Wisconsin's rare invertebrates, contact:
Jay Watson
Conservation Biologist

Gray Copper (Lycaena dione)



Gray Copper (Lycaena dione), a Special Concern species, is found in wet areas in open grasslands, including stream edges, roadside ditches where their host plant, docks (Rumex spp.) grow. Adults fly from late June to mid-August with peak flight in July. Larvae feed in spring and have been noted in late April in southeastern Wisconsin.

State status

Status and Natural Heritage Inventory documented occurrences in Wisconsin

The table below provides information about the protected status - both state and federal - and the rank (S and G Ranks) for Gray Copper (Lycaena dione). See the Working List Key for more information about abbreviations. Counties shaded blue have documented occurrences for this species in the Wisconsin Natural Heritage Inventory database. The map is provided as a general reference of where occurrences of this species meet NHI data standards and is not meant as a comprehensive map of all observations.

Note: Species recently added to the NHI Working List may temporarily have blank occurrence maps.

Documented locations of Lycaena dione in the Natural Heritage Inventory Database as of July 2015.
Summary Information
State StatusSC/N
Federal Status in Wisconsinnone
State RankS2
Global RankG5
Tracked by NHIY

Species guidance

Identification: Largest North American copper at 31-36mm wingspan. The upperside is grey. Male has some orange along margin of hindwing and the female has an extensive orange band. Below is grayish white with black spots and a prominent orange band (variable).

Similar Species: No other Wisconsin species have the combination of size and grey coloration.

Habitat: Wet areas in open grasslands, including stream edges, roadside ditches where docks grow.

Nectar Source: Dogbane (Apocynum spp.), milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), thistle (Cirsium spp.).

Host Plant: Docks (Rumex spp.) including Rumex crispus and R. occidentalis.

State Distribution: Grant, Sauk, Milwaukee, and Bayfield Cos.

Global Distribution: Southern Alberta to southern Manitoba, northern Idaho to Wisconsin and south to IL, MO, and TX.

Status Comments: Highly localized and uncommon. Similarity to the Great Copper, Lycaena xanthoides, that occurs only on the Pacific coast has caused confusion in the past. The Grey Copper is a distinct species from the Great Copper.

Phenology: Late June to mid August for adults. July 11-15 Bayfield Co.

Life and Natural History: Females lay single eggs at or near the base of dock plants in June and July. Larvae feed in Spring and have been noted in late April in southeastern Wisconsin.



Gray Copper

Photo © Lesa Kardash.

Gray Copper

Gray Copper - Tamarack State Wildlife Area, Trempealeau County.

Photo © Mike Reese.

Wildlife Action Plan

Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan graphic

Natural community (habitat) associations

The table below lists the natural communities that are associated with Gray Copper. Only natural communities for which Gray Copper is "high" (score=3) or "moderate" (score=2) associated are shown. See the key to association scores for complete definitions. Please see the Wildlife Action Plan to learn how this information was developed.

Ecological landscape associations

The table below lists the ecological landscape association scores for Gray Copper. The scores correspond to the map (3=High, 2=Moderate, 1=Low, 0=None). For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

This map shows the probability of Gray Copper occurring in each of Wisconsin's Ecological Landscapes.  Actual scores can be found in the table to the left.

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Landscape-Community combinations of highest ecological priority*

Ecological priorities are the combinations of natural communities and ecological landscapes that provide Wisconsin's best opportunities to conserve important habitats for a given Species of Greatest Conservation Need. The 10 highest scoring combinations are considered ecological priorities and are listed below. More than 10 combinations are listed if multiple combinations tied for 10th place. For more information, please see the Wildlife Action Plan.

* Ecological priority score is a relative measure that is not meant for comparison between species. This score does not consider socio-economical factors that may dictate protection and/or management priorities differently than those determined solely by ecological analysis. Further, a low ecological priority score does not imply that management or preservation should not occur on a site if there are important reasons for doing so locally.

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Issues/threats and conservation actions

Conservation actions respond to issues or threats, which adversely affect species of greatest conservation need (SGCN) or their habitats. Besides actions such as restoring wetlands or planting resilient tree species in northern communities, research, surveys and monitoring are also among conservation actions described in the WWAP because lack of information can threaten our ability to successfully preserve and care for natural resources.

Threats/issues and conservations actions for rare animals

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Last revised: Thursday, October 08, 2020