GOLETA, Calif. - A new census sheds a sobering light on the Western Monarch Butterfly population.
"I'm watching the decline of a species ... maybe ten years ago, there were 40,000 and now we're are down to less than 200 .. there's 170 at Elmwood Main right now, which is shockingly low, the lowest that's ever been here," said Charis Van der Heide, a wildlife biologist.
Sites for winter stopovers like the grove and others statewide saw a stunning 86 percent drop in butterflies this year. The butterfly grove in Goleta used to be one of the largest overwintering sites in California. The rapid decline is a mystery.
"Habitat loss of milkweed, fires and bad air quality in California, weird weather, it's hard to know," said Van der Heide.
Van der Heide said the monarchs are not only pollinators critical to the health of the environment, but they are also a wonder to behold, " ... we are losing a species that inspires so much awe."