Center for Biological Diversity: Eastern Monarch ButterflyPopulation Overwintering in Mexico Falls Well Below Extinction Threshold

by Angela van Breemen

On the news each year, we hear about the dwindling numbers of pollinators. I was dismayed to recently read that the overwintering Monarch butterflies in Mexico had decreased by 53%. In an article released on March 13th, 2020, the Center for Biological Diversity released shocking numbers.

“Scientists were expecting the count to be down slightly, but this level of decrease is heartbreaking,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Monarchs unite us, and more protections are clearly needed for these migratory wonders and their habitat.”

It is believed that the extinction threshold for the migratory butterflies’ survival in North America is 15 acres. The latest count done by World Wildlife Fund Mexico found overwintering monarchs occupied only 7 acres.

Monarch caterpillars only eat milkweed and since this plant has been destroyed by herbicides, their food source is quickly being eliminated. George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety was quoted as saying, “Both the law and science require that we must protect monarchs under the Endangered Species Act before it’s too late. Monsanto’s profits cannot come before the monarch’s future.”

To read the full report, please visit https://biologicaldiversity.org/w/news/press-releases/eastern-monarch-butterfly-population-plunges-more-half-2020-03-13/

Last year, I was very inspired by a fellow Procyon Wildlife volunteer who was protecting delicate caterpillars, not just monarchs, from natural predators so that they would have an increased chance of going from egg to larvae (caterpillar) and then magically transform to a butterfly.

I was very excited when I saw monarch caterpillars munching away on milkweed that I had growing in my own flower gardens. I covered the plants with a light mesh to protect these delicate creatures from predators since in the wild, only about one to two monarch butterfly eggs live to become adult butterflies.

Eastern monarch butterflies are the only butterflies that make a lengthy, two-way migration every year, travelling thousands of kilometres from North America to spend winter in the mountains of Mexico before returning north in the spring.

In the fall last year, I planted milkweed seeds everywhere I could and I am very excited to report that quite a few plants are growing betwixt my herbs, echinacea and other flowering plants and shrubs.

I am now holding my breath and full of hope that some of those monarchs will return to our country property, and to those of my wildlife rehab friends. Sadly, though I have not yet seen any.

Still, I am hopeful, and what a joy it will be to see them come to drink the nectar from these flowers and stay to lay eggs on the milkweed plants.

One more thought, before I sign off. Please think twice about spraying your trees to rid yourself of those awful gypsy moth caterpillars… those insecticides could do so much harm to other pollinators, insects, the birds that eat those insects and to other wildlife.

In this life, our goal should be to do no harm.

HELP is in ALL OUR hands!

Update on Baby Kai

In the May issue of the Procyon Post, we wrote about the little raccoon, Kai and his siblings, who sadly did not make it.

Since our readers have been asking about how Kai is doing, Procyon Volunteer Joanne Scott has given us a short write-up on Kai.

Little Kai has come a long way since first arriving at Procyon, and then coming into my foster care. He is thriving, although he continues to be tiny for his age.

When Kai and his two siblings first arrived, their umbilical cords were longer than their bodies! Their mother had died while protecting them from the farmer’s dog, and the babies were discovered in the barn where they had just been born.

Sadly, I was unable to save two of the babies, but Kai is a survivor. Although he loves walnuts, dog kibble and fruit, especially grapes and bananas, he continues to receive a bottle of formula each evening.

I had to tube feed Kai for so long, he missed out on the comfort of suckling as a tiny baby, so he gets his comfort from a bottle.  He loves playing with two other foster raccoons, Petey and Sarah, and each day they receive lots of enrichment in order to learn the skills they will need to survive on their own.

They especially enjoy one particular dead log that is hollow and cracked open vertically from top to bottom. They love to scamper up and down and poke their little heads out from the crack.

Providing enrichments allows them to learn and explore nature before they are released into the wild in September. They are happy to be in their outdoor enclosure, where meals await them, and there are plenty of hammocks, a nest box, a small water pool and other forms of stimulation.

Kai has already received the first two vaccines for parvo and distemper, and has been thoroughly de-wormed.

He is the picture of a happy and healthy little raccoon!

Below are images of Kai and Petey at play in their outside enclosure.

Article by Joanne Scott
Photography by Bob Scott
Procyon Volunteers & Foster Parents

Procyon Wildlife Rehabilitation & Education Centre
Beeton, Ontario