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Monarch butterflies join global list of endangered species


An international conservation group now considers the monarch butterfly to be at risk for extinction.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature added the monarch to its ‘red list’ of threatened species Thursday. It says the butterfly is threatened by habitat loss and climate change.

North America’s monarch butterfly population has been declining for decades.

The western monarch’s population is down 99.9 percent since the 1980s, according to the IUCN. The eastern monarch is only faring slightly better. Its population has dropped 85 percent since 1996.

Baerbel Ehrig, Oneida County’s pollinator coordinator, says this decline is evident in the Northwoods.

“This year is definitely standing out that there’s a lot less [monarchs] around,” she says. “I’ve been making my own personal observations here over the last 10 years, and this is the year that it’s fully visible that there’s less.”

Ehrig hopes the butterfly’s endangered listing by the IUCN will help.

“That will definitely help raise awareness,” she says. “It’ll help funding projects to go into creating and improving habitat for the monarch butterfly.”

Monarchs met all the criteria to be considered for the federal endangered species list last year. But they weren’t added to that list because so many other animals also meet those criteria and are considered even more threatened.

Ehirg says gaining federal protection would be a drastic step toward ensuring the butterfly’s survival, but until that happens, she encourages people to plant wildflowers, especially native milkweed.

“Think of the monarch as a symbol,” she says. “We can care as an individual to make a difference and that translates to taking care of our planet. That symbolizes also how this planet can take care of us.”

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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