Locals add to monarch rebound – Medford News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News

Monarch butterflies are showing signs of rebounding on the West Coast this year, advocates Medford right in the middle of it

A monarch is seen after his release at Robert Coffan’s home in Medford. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

This monarch butterfly, labeled H0671, was released Aug. 26 in Medford and found Sept. 11 245 miles away near Hidden Valley Lake, California. [courtesy photo]

A monarch is marked and prepared for release. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Robert Coffan catches a monarch at his home in Medford. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

A monarch caterpillar eats a leaf at Robert Coffan’s in Medford. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Robert Coffan raises monarchs at his home in Medford. [Jamie Lusch / Mail Tribune]

Already encouraged by a potential resurgence of migratory monarchs in the Pacific Northwest over the past year, Medford residents Robert and Simone Coffan received an extra boost last week when one of “their own butterflies, tagged on August 26 at their home in south Medford, was found about 245 miles away last week.

The male monarch was recorded on September 9 after landing on a pink zinnia near Hidden Valley Lake, California, just long enough for a woman to admire his colorful wings and snap a photo, which she sent to the email address on the small circular tag that Coffan and his wife, Simone, carefully affixed to one of the butterfly’s hindwings last month.

President and co-founder of Western Monarch Advocates and co-founder of Southern Oregon Monarch Advocates, Coffan began helping to tag and release monarch butterflies in 2014. One of approximately 30 local residents who participate in the program, run by Washington State University, Coffan was thrilled to have released the first recorded monarch of the fall season.

“I don’t know if exciting is even the right word. It was really…almost humbling to have proof that we came out the first to get to California from the north,” Coffan said.

“It’s almost as if nature is somehow thanking us for our help. We’ve had two more butterflies since 2014 that were found at wintering sites before. May it happen this year – this phenomenal year – was truly special.

While recent years have been concerning for the iconic orange and black insects, regional advocates say this year’s numbers are the most promising in decades. By some accounts, the western population of migratory monarchs has declined by around 99.9%, from 10 million to 1,914 butterflies, between the 1980s and 2021, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

In July, the IUCN placed migratory monarchs on its “red list”, deeming them endangered. Although it’s a different distinction than being placed on the US endangered species list, local advocates hoped the listing would underscore the need for increased conservation efforts.

A subspecies of monarch, the migratory monarch is known for its winter migrations from Mexico and California to summer breeding grounds across the United States and Canada. Populations have declined over the past decade by 22% to 72%.

A silver lining appeared in August of this year, when David James, an entomologist at Washington State University, announced an encouraging increase on his Monarch Butterflies in the Pacific Northwest webpage.

“I’ve been watching the numbers closely, and there are 12 times more reports of monarchs in PNW in July than there were in July 2021, when a total of 13 adults were reported (Oregon , Washington and Idaho),” he wrote.

“All signs point to very good numbers of fall migrants being produced in PNW this year.”

Coffan said he hopes monarch populations will rebound and is excited about southern Oregon’s role in history. For their part, the Coffans have vast patches of pollinating flowers and milkweed – the only food source for monarch caterpillars. They host a pavilion on their property to protect the caterpillars and the monarch from predators.

Simone Coffan said the monarch’s life cycle was miraculous to watch. With only one in 100 caterpillars turning into butterflies and one in four generations – dubbed “super generations” – migrating, Simone Coffan said it was exciting to see a monarch they tagged appear hundreds of miles away.

“Over four generations, so that only the fourth generation knows how to migrate. It’s as if your great-great-great-grandchild lived not 80 years, but 800 years,” she said.

“And the stages they go through to become a butterfly, starting with this little egg, then this big caterpillar. Then suddenly there’s a chrysalis — the caterpillar is gone. It turns into a soup. And from that soup comes out this beautiful butterfly. It’s not even explainable.

Robert Coffan said he hoped to get additional reports of monarchs released in southern Oregon heading to overwintering sites in California. In January, his group Western Monarch Advocates will participate in the International Western Monarch Summit event in Pismo Beach. He then hopes to celebrate a continued rise in the presence of monarchs in all Western states.

As for H0671, if all goes well, it should be floating somewhere between Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz this month, finding its way to at least one of the three major overwintering sites. After nearly a decade of helping tag and release monarchs, Coffan still pauses whenever he sees one.

“Who would think that this little thing would even know how to go there – but then it would travel hundreds of miles to overwinter,” he said.

“I’ve been doing it for many years, but it still amazes me every time.”

He added: “They are truly amazing and everyone should feel so lucky when they see one.”

Monarch Release Event Saturday

This Saturday, members of the public are invited to join Coffan and other local defenders as they tag and release more monarch butterflies as part of a recovery celebration along the Bear Creek Greenway in Phoenix. .

Those released will be part of the “super generation” that migrates south for the winter. The event is twofold, Coffan said — celebrating the region’s recovery from devastating fires and the recovery of monarch butterflies this year.

The event will also highlight the recovery of the Greenway, as it relates to fish, vegetation and pollinators, with a look at the cold water springs – exposed by the Almeda fire – which are cooling the Bear Creek water for fish. A visit to a rainwater swale will be included.

The event will begin at 3 p.m. Participants are asked to meet near Phoenix Industrial Studios (near Clyde’s Corner), at 4495 S. Pacific Highway. For more information, see facebook.com/somonarchs and facebook.com/MonarchButterfliesInThePacificNorthwest/

Contact journalist Buffy Pollock at 541-776-8784 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @orwritergal.

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