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North America's monarch butterflies, a species known for its extraordinary migratory journey and extravagant orange-and-black wings, has been officially declared endangered and at risk for extinction. 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature announced Thursday the agency had listed the migratory monarch butterfly as endangered on the IUCN's Red List of Threatened Species due to the butterfly's sharp population decline.

Driven to the brink by habitat destruction and climate change, the endangered migratory monarch butterfly's population has shrunk by between 22% and 72% over the past decade, according to the IUCN —  the New York Times describes the agency as the world's most comprehensive scientific authority on the status of species.  

Monarch butterflies are known for traveling thousands of miles on an astonishing migration from Mexico and California in the winter to summer breeding grounds throughout the United States and Canada. 

“It is difficult to watch monarch butterflies and their extraordinary migration teeter on the edge of collapse, but there are signs of hope," stated Anna Walker, member of the IUCN SSC Butterfly and Moth Specialist Group and Species Survival Officer at the New Mexico BioPark Society, in the announcement Thursday. 

According to IUCN, the western population of monarch butterflies is at greatest risk of extinction, having declined by an estimated 99.9%, from as many as 10 million to 1,914 butterflies between the 1980s and 2021.

The larger eastern population also shrunk by 84% from 1996 to 2014 and concern remains as to whether enough butterflies survive to maintain the populations and prevent extinction, the agency stated. 

Planting native milkweed, reducing pesticide use, supporting the protection of overwintering sites and contributing to community science all plays a role in the species' recovery, Walker said. 

Find the full announcement here

Monarchs in Minnesota 

Monarchs live in fields and parks where milkweed and other native plants are common, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

Plants recommended for butterfly gardens include: 

  • Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
  • Common milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
  • Butterflyweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Narrow-leaved coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)
  • Rough blazing star (Liatris aspera)
  • Meadow blazing star (Liatris ligulistylis)
  • Black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia hirta)

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