There Were More Than 1.2 Million Monarch Butterflies Wintering in CA in 1997. Now They Are Just 30,000!

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There were more than 1.2 million monarch butterflies wintering in CA in 1997.

Now, the total number of monarchs observed this year during The Xerces Society Thanksgiving count was 29,418. Terrifying!

Monarch butterflies in California at critically low level for 2nd year in a row
Monarch butterflies in California at critically low level for 2nd year in a row. Picture: Gregory Bull/AP

There is something really bad going on with the monarch butterflies wintering in California. In 1997 there were more than 1.2 million monarch butterflies wintering along the California coast. Now, according to the latest Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count by The Xerces Society, this number has plummeted to 29,418, slightly higher than the 2018-2019 count with its all-time low of 27,218.

In other words, the western monarch population hasn’t rebound, not even modestly and has remained critically low for the second year in a row.

Back in March 2016, 1,5 million Monarch died frozen in one the biggest sanctuary in Mexico.

Why monarch butterflies decline in California?

Monarch butterflies in the West have been in decline because of:

  • loss of habitat, including destruction of their California wintering sites
  • loss of milkweed for caterpillars
  • loss of flowering resources to fuel migration

More than 21 large wintering sites in California have been significantly damaged or destroyed for real estate… Since Monarch butterflies return to the same sites, often the same trees, every fall for wintering. So when those spots disappear, the butterfly also ‘disappears’.

It would be wise to protect all remaining overwintering sites to save California’s monarchs. These amazing butterflies remember a mountain that has disappeared for millenia at Lake Superior. Find similar ecosystem collapse news on Strange Sounds and Steve Quayle. [Western Monarch Count, Xerces]

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