The Last Monarch?

When I was a kid living in Reno, Monarch butterflies were almost as common as grasshoppers. I used to take them for granted, but now they have become so rare that seeing one is a real treat.

Last weekend, I noticed one flying around some clover flowers and quickly grabbed my camera to shoot some photos. I must have taken over 100 shots, but only a few came out looking good. For a long time I was under the impression that the Monarch’s decline was attributable to Monsanto’s genetically engineered Round Up Ready corn, which is whipping out hundreds of ancient species of Maize throughout Mexico and South America. It turns out, however, that this is only part of the story, and that illegal deforestation of the Monarch’s overwintering grounds has also had a devastating impact on this amazing species.

Efforts to classify the Monarch as a protected species and to restore its habitat are under way, and interestingly, Mexican authorities have predicted a drastic improvement its population for the 2005-2006 season. I can’t speak for the butterfly’s population as a whole, but I, personally have seen many more Monarchs this year than I have for a very long time.

Let’s hope they really are coming back!

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