Press Release: Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count Totals for 2021

Expert contact: Emma Pelton, Senior Endangered Species Conservation Biologist and Western Monarch Lead, the Xerces Society; 503-212-0706; [email protected]

Media contact: Deborah Seiler, Communications Director, the Xerces Society; 503-212-0550; [email protected] 

Western monarchs rebound to final tally of nearly 250,000 butterflies

PORTLAND, Ore. – For decades, the Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count has been cataloging the rapid decline of one of North America’s most enigmatic butterflies. In a surprising and remarkable outcome, this winter brought a final tally of 247,237 monarch butterflies observed across the West, an over 100-fold increase from the previous year’s total of less than 2,000 monarchs and the highest total since 2016.

“We’re ecstatic with the results and hope this trend continues,” says Emma Pelton, the Western Monarch Lead with the Xerces Society. “There are so many environmental factors at play across their range that there’s no single cause or definitive answer for this year’s uptick, but hopefully it means we still have time to protect this species.”

Overwintering sites skew south

Santa Barbara County reported the most monarchs this year at over 95,000, including the largest single site where more than 25,000 butterflies were counted on a private property. San Luis Obispo County came in a close second with over 90,000 butterflies reported at overwintering sites, including the Pismo Beach Butterfly Sanctuary managed by California State Parks, which had the second highest count at an overwintering site this season at 20,871 butterflies. 

Typically, California’s central coast hosts the majority of monarchs, as well as a significant number in the San Francisco Bay Area. However, Bay Area sites had few or no monarchs this year, with fewer than 600 butterflies counted at overwintering sites stretching from Mendocino to San Mateo counties.

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