After years of sharp declines, the western monarch butterfly population is seeing a surprising and welcomed rebound in the western United States. In 2020, fewer than 2,000 butterflies were counted, but the latest survey from the Xerces Society counted 247,237 butterflies across 283 sites in the 25th annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. “Last year, we experienced the near-extinction of the western migratory monarch. This year, it’s thrilling to see an increase in the California coast overwintering monarch numbers” said Dr. Rebeca Quiñonez-Piñón, chief monarch recovery strategist for the National Wildlife Federation. “While we are eager to celebrate these numbers, this is no time to let up on conservation efforts.” Emma Pelton, the western monarch lead with the Xerces Society, said “We’re ecstatic with the results and hope this trend continues.”

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The Western Monarch Conservation Plan. calls for a 5-year annual average of 500,000 monarchs by 2029. To achieve this, the recovery of the western monarch population will require a much larger number of monarchs per year than the latest 2021 Thanksgiving Count, according to NWF. The organization says that investment in conservation is crucial: “Recovering the western monarch needs continued public and private investment, legislation, and on-the-ground work to restore and protect their natural breeding areas, migratory corridors, and the California overwintering habitats.”

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