Wildlife officials say the king of butterflies could go the way of the passenger pigeon unless people step in and plant more of the monarch caterpillars’ only food source, milkweed. The monarch butterfly population has crashed, according to Naomi Edelson, senior director of the National Wildlife Federation, and can only be revived with a conservation strategy that improves its habitat by increasing its food supply. The eastern monarch population, which is found east of the Rocky Mountains, has declined 90 percent in recent decades.
Edelson said she knows we’ll miss them when they’re gone.
The Wildlife Federation supports the Mid-America Monarch Conservation Strategy that provides a blueprint for reversing the decline by improving habitats in natural areas, on agricultural lands and homeowners’ backyards.
The mid-America monarch migration route includes 16 states from Texas to North Dakota and east to Ohio. Edelson said during that time, milkweed is the butterfly’s only food source.
Edelson said she worries the decline in monarch butterflies is reminiscent of the era of the passenger pigeon.
The passenger pigeon population went from billions in the late 1880’s to zero 50 years later due to uncontrolled hunting. In 2014, the monarch butterfly was petitioned for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, and a decision on whether listing is warranted, is expected in 2019.