Monarch butterflies have been recently seen in Yosemite National Park, park officials said on Twitter on Aug. 10, 2019.

Yosemite National Park

Monarch Butterflies Unexpectedly Spotted In Yosemite National Park

KCBS Radio Morning News
August 13, 2019 - 8:33 am

The monarch butterfly has returned to Yosemite National Park, according to rangers who say the endangered insect has been spotted in several locations around the park.

“It’s a really exciting time,” said ranger Jamie Richards. “We have monarchs, they’re doing very well. You’ll see them in areas like Cook’s meadow, Ahwahnee meadow.”

The news is especially significant because the monarch population, once a regular and iconic sight across North America as huge flocks made their yearly migration, has been nearly wiped out in recent decades. “Down about 99% since the 1980 population numbers,” said Richards.

Monarch Butterfly Have Been Spotted In Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

In 2014, environmental groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. The agency’s initial assessment found that protection may be warranted, but a full assessment is pending and the deadline has been extended to Dec. 2020.

Related: California Plans To Sue Trump Administration Over Change To Endangered Species Act

The butterfly has become such a rare sight that some who study the species are skeptical about its reappearance in Yosemite.

“I have my doubts that they’re really monarchs,” said UC Davis entomologist Art Shapiro. “I have not seen one monarch caterpillar in California this year.”

The orange and black butterflies can be identified by the white dots that cluster in the black margins on their wings, Shapiro said. The caterpillars have yellow, black and white stripes.

But Yosemite officials said the park has been doing its part to protect monarch habitats and create a safe haven. The butterflies rely on plant life that is native to the park, in particular the milkweed plant. “The fact that we’re seeing a lot of monarchs this time of year is a good sign that meadow habitat is coming back,” said Richards.

Park officials are asking the public to do their part to protect the butterflies by staying on designated paths to avoid trampling their habitat.

“When you see butterflies, particularly close to the roadways, slow down and give monarch butterflies a chance,” said Richards.

Reported by Jim Taylor. Written by Jessica Yi.