The population of Western monarch butterflies is in a serious decline in California, mostly attributed to the destruction of their milkweed habitat along their migratory route every winter. In order to help the declining population of butterflies, River Partners has joined with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to plant 30,000 milkweed plants along the Sacramento, Kern and Feather rivers.
Milkweeds are critical to monarch butterflies because it’s where they lay their eggs and the caterpillars feed on the plant before spinning into their cocoons. The plant has seen a decline in the past decade due to housing expansion, along with the use of pesticides and herbicides.
The lack of milkweeds is leading to the demise of California’s beautiful orange-and-black butterflies. The most recent count saw only 2,000 of the butterflies last winter, a massive decline.
“There couldn’t be a more critical time to be doing this,” said restoration biologist Francis Ulep of River Partners to the Associated Press.
The butterflies are known to fill the skies of California every year, with typical mass sightings around San Francisco, Lake Tahoe and Lassen Peak. The annual migration over Lassen Peak has become an event of celebration for local outdoor enthusiasts, who hike to the top of the active volcano to be surrounded by the beautiful butterflies:
With the introduction of milkweeds along NorCal rivers, wildlife officials and conservationists hope this migration can thrive once again in the future.