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Monarch butterflies return to California after years of decline

"We have 100,000 Monarch's this year compared to 2,000 last year," Edenholn said about the California totals so far.

PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. — Early in 2021, we reported that the Monarch butterfly count for the Western population had come in with the lowest count ever. Pacific Grove on Monterey Bay is known as Butterfly Town USA had zero butterflies to report and the entire count for all of California came in with only 2,000 Monarch butterflies.

So when the 2021 count began there was a lot of apprehension but there is some good news about this year's numbers.

Stephanie Edenholn is an educational docent for the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History and has been part of the count since 2013.

"We have 100,000 Monarch's this year compared to 2,000 last year," Edenholn said about the California totals so far. 

Regionally, the numbers look good as well. "Last year was zero, and the year prior to that was 643 and the year prior to that was 700 to 800," she said.

And that was just 2,000 butterflies for the entire Western population last year. This year's count started in October with some promising numbers.

RELATED: Monarch Butterfly population declining dramatically

"We had 3,000, then 9,000, then up to 13,000, and now on the last count this Friday it's hovering around 12,364," Edenholn said.

Numbers are up at other locations as well. Pismo Beach is reporting 22,000, Santa Cruz has counted 2,000, Cambria 1,700 and Ventura already has counted 3,000.

"So, there's all this joy and delight with the numbers we do have," she said.

Stephanie warns that even though the count is up it is still down over 99% from the 1980s when Monarch butterflies were counted in the millions. But having the number go up this year is a good thing and it could be from education and awareness.

"So, you have a lot of citizens planting native nectar and milkweed giving Monarch's the habitat they need," Edenholn said.

Farmers are also leaving space and the industry is helping.

"Up in the Bay Area Google has all that property and planted it with milkweed and we've had an increase in numbers," she said.

Edenholm believes that everyone should be excited by the return of the Monarch Butterflies, but also remember how close we are to losing them all together.

"To say the Monarchs are back for the Western population... you can't. You need to look at the long term, not just one year," Edenholn said.

WATCH RELATED: Monarch Butterfly population declining (Feb 2021)

RELATED: After 22 years, Laguna Mountains Skipper Butterfly to be reintroduced to native habitat

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