Monarch Numbers Continue to Fall, Climate Change Working Faster than Conservation Efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The western monarch butterfly is in danger as the population struggles to recover. The latest survey from the Xerces Society indicates just 233,394 butterflies were counted across 256 sites for the 27th annual Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count. This is a 30 percent decline from the previously reported 335,479 monarchs in 2023 and emphasizes the urgency to save this iconic species.

“The science is clear, the western monarchs are imperiled and there’s no time to lose in enacting solutions that will help western monarch populations thrive and rebound to their once prolific numbers,” said Rebeca Quiñonez-Piñón. “The Xerces count is a beacon that can’t be ignored, year after year we see the fluctuations that demonstrate an unstable and frail population. It is now a matter of urgency, conservation efforts must multiply to make a meaningful difference. We need to protect and restore native habitats with a climate lens, promote and implement sustainable gardening practices, support federal policy, and increase public and private investment to save the migratory monarch butterflies.” 

“Last year’s winter storms meant we entered the spring breeding season with fewer butterflies and saw lower numbers this summer, so it is not surprising that the overwintering population is down,” said Emma Pelton, a monarch conservation biologist with the Xerces Society. “It’s difficult to predict how conditions during any single year will influence the population, but we do know that western monarch numbers need to be much higher before we consider this a recovery.”

Compared to the millions of western butterflies reported in the 1980s, the 233,394 recorded this year is nowhere near the self-sustained population size according to the Western Monarch Conservation Plan. The Plan calls for a 5-year annual average of 500,000 monarchs by 2029. To achieve this, the recovery of the western monarch population will need to dramatically increase over the next five years.

Recovering the western monarch population needs on-the-groundwork and buy-in on both a local and federal level to restore and protect their natural breeding areas, migratory corridors, and the California overwintering habitats. Investment in conservation is crucial. There is no time to lose, if we don’t act the monarch butterfly will continue to decline toward extinction. 

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