Monarch count: Pacific Grove numbers down this year

The monarch butterflies have returned to Pacific Grove, but this year there may be fewer of them.

Volunteers and officials with the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History recently counted 11,000, down from 18,000 this time last year. That count seems to buck a coastal trend, although not all the counts are in.

Sarina Jepsen, the director of the Xerces Society’s endangered species program, said that from the 145 sites counted so far, the monarch count actually seems to be up from last year. Jepsen’s program aims to raise awareness about the plight of invertebrates that are declining.

“We can say that in some areas, (for example) the northern part of the wintering range, that they appear to be doing better,” Jepsen said.

Allison Watson, education programs manager with the Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History, said the lower count in Pacific Grove could be due to shifting populations to more northern counties or to it being simply more difficult to count the butterflies.

“We won’t know (the trend) until mid-January when they release the final report,” she said.

In terms of Monterey County, Jepsen said they have documented 28,100 from 18 sites, which amounts to an average of 1,561 per site, while last year 55,879 were documented from only 14 sites. That was an average of 3,991 per site.

The state overall saw 234,000 total in 2014-15 and 211,000 in 2013-14.

Lower numbers don’t necessarily mean the population has declined. Jepsen said that when analyzing the health of the monarch population, it’s crucial to take a long-range view.

– Carly Mayberry, Monterey Herald

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