See monarch butterflies up close at unique DWR event
Vernal — The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Utah State University have partnered on researching some of the state's native plants and insects to help prevent them from being listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The researchers will also use the resulting data to support delisting, when possible, and to make better-informed wildlife-management decisions. The public is invited to attend an upcoming event that will help biologists learn more about the distribution and migration of monarch butterflies — and it's a great opportunity for you to get a closer look at these beautiful insects.
The monarch butterfly is an iconic, colorful butterfly known for its striking orange, black and white wings. Two major monarch populations are found in North America. They migrate from their summer breeding areas to their wintering grounds — a massive migration route that includes parts of southern Canada, nearly every state in the U.S. and a corridor of eastern Mexico.
Monarch butterflies are declining across Utah and the western U.S. due to many factors, including a loss of their winter habitat, some types of pesticides and fewer milkweed plants. As pollinators, monarch butterflies help maintain a variety of habitats that are important to the health of Utah's rangelands and watersheds, and are vital to many wildlife species. In December 2020, the monarch butterfly was designated as a candidate species for listing under the Endangered Species Act, due to dramatic population declines since the 1980s.
In an effort to better understand monarch butterfly populations, the DWR is partnering with Dinosaur National Monument officials, Utah State University and other organizations on conservation efforts — like the work being done at this upcoming event. The event will be held Saturday, Aug. 14 from 8-11 a.m. at the historic Josie Morris Cabin at 11625 E. 1500 South in Jensen. The event is free, but there is a $25 entrance fee per vehicle to enter Dinosaur National Monument, which is where the cabin is located.
At the event, biologists will net the adult butterflies, attach a sticker with a unique code to their wing and then safely release them. This tagging effort is part of a multistate project that helps biologists gather information about the butterfly’s migration patterns and population numbers. Participants will be able to see the tagging process and learn more about monarch life cycles, as well as join in a beautiful walk through a field to see butterflies. All handling of monarch butterflies will be performed by trained biologists participating in the project.
While the event is free, participants are required to register in advance to reserve a time slot since space is limited.
"This will be a great activity for the whole family to get outdoors and to see these beautiful butterflies up close," DWR Regional Wildlife Recreation Specialist Anthony Christianson said.
For more information about how to help monarch butterflies in Utah, visit the Utah Pollinator Project website.