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Great News! This Year’s Monarch Butterfly Migration Shows a Rebounding Population

The beloved monarch butterfly is arriving in greater numbers than ever expected.

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Monarch Butterfly
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(TMU) — Every fall the monarch butterfly population makes its epic migratory journey across the United States, covering trees like leaves as they make their way to the forests of the Mexican state of Michoacán and the eucalyptus- and pine-rich Californian Central Coast.

The majestic black-and-gold pollinator is unique because it’s one of the only butterfly species that travels as far as 3,000 miles, traveling in vast droves from October to mid-November in a dazzling display that fill skies with the iconic colors, blanketing landscapes as they overwinter and rest before continuing on.

But over the past two decades, the iconic North American monarch has faced sharp population declines. In 1997, an estimated 682 million monarchs traveled through the air, according to the Center for Biological Diversity. But by 2014, the number fell to a staggering 25 million before bouncing back to 150 million in 2016. However, according to a survey released in January by conservation group the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the Monarch butterfly “declined to dangerously low levels”—roughly 80 percent—in central Mexico, and 99 percent along California’s coast.

However, this year there have been several reports that the beloved butterfly may actually be making a strong comeback and is arriving in greater numbers than ever expected, according to Better Home and Gardens.

Observers along their eastern migration route in Colorado saw massive amounts of the creatures as they headed south for winter, with video footage captured in October by Colorado Parks & Wildlife depicting dramatic numbers of butterflies resting on trees and bushes at a park near the town of Lamar.

On October 16, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center reported that monarchs had landed in Austin, Texas in numbers far larger than usual, as they fed on the milkweed which grows in abundance throughout Central Texas and fuels their journeys.

The anecdotal evidence from conservationists could also be supported by hard data collected in January of this year by the Center for Biological Diversity, which found that the population resting for winter in Mexico had leaped by 144 percent since the last survey was made in 2018. The population count had even surpassed previous years since 2006, and this year’s weather could be a boon for the monarchs’ egg and larvae survival rate.

Yet while this good news should be welcomed, experts are urging caution. Matthew Shepard, the communications and outreach director at the Xerces Center, noted that researchers can only take accurate population counts while they are clustered at their overwintering sites in Mexico and California.

Shepard explained:

“At this point in the year, we won’t know how monarchs are doing in either the eastern states or the west.

While monarchs are spread across the landscape, it isn’t possible to get an overall count, only a sense of how things are based on the number passing through a few scattered locations.”

In general, the species is still in danger of extinction with previous estimates saying that the monarch faces a 50-75 percent risk of extinction within 20 years and 65-85 percent risk of extinction within 50 years should remain on our minds.

Yet we should also derive hope from the news that monarch populations are modestly rebounding, and a good portion of the credit is due to conservation groups like Xerces Society, the Center for Biological Diversity, Monarch Watch, the Monarch Joint Venture and others who have spared no effort to prevent the collapse of the monarch population across North America.

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Animals

Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida

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A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.

In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.

“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.

Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.

Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.

Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.

Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.

However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.

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Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son

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A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.

The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.

The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.

“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.

“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.

The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.

The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.

“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.

The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.

The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.

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Blue Whales Return to Spain’s Coast After Disappearing for 40 Years

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Blue whales have been returning to the Atlantic coast of Spain after an absence of over 40 years in the region, when whaling industries drove the species to the brink of extinction.

Blue whales, which are the world’s largest mammals, had long disappeared from the region until the recent sightings.

The first was spotted off the coast of Galicia near Ons Island by marine biologist Bruno Díaz, who heads the Bottlenose Dolphin Research.

Another one of the majestic creatures was spotted the following year in 2018 and yet another in 2019. In 2020, two whales again made their return to the area.

It remains unclear as of yet as to why the creatures have returned to the area, but controls on local whaling industries are believed to play a role.

“I believe the moratorium on whaling has been a key factor,” Díaz remarked, according to the Guardian. “In the 1970s, just before the ban was introduced, an entire generation of blue whales disappeared. Now, more than 40 years later, we’re seeing the return of the descendants of the few that survived.”

Whaling had been a traditional industry in Galicia for hundreds of years before Spain finally acted to ban whaling in 1986, long after the blue whale’s presence in the region had faded away.

Some fear that the return of the massive sea mammals is a sign of global warming.

“I’m pessimistic because there’s a high possibility that climate change is having a major impact on the blue whale’s habitat,” said marine biologist Alfredo López in comments to La Voz de Galicia.

“Firstly, because they never venture south of the equator, and if global warming pushes this line north, their habitat will be reduced,” he continued “And secondly, if it means the food they normally eat is disappearing, then what we’re seeing is dramatic and not something to celebrate.”

Díaz said that while the data certainly supports this theory, it is too early to determine climate as the precise cause.

“It is true that the data we have points to this trend [climate change] but it is not enough yet,” he told Público news.

Another possibility is that the ancestral memory of the old creatures or even a longing for their home may offer an explanation, according to Díaz.

“In recent years it’s been discovered that the blue whale’s migration is driven by memory, not by environmental conditions,” he said. “This year there hasn’t been a notable increase in plankton, but here they are. Experiences are retained in the collective memory and drive the species to return.”

In recent years, researchers have found that migratory patterns are also driven by the cultural knowledge existing in many groups of species.

Researchers believe this type of folk memory, or cultural knowledge, exists in many species and is key to their survival.

A typical blue whale is 20-24 metres long and weighs 120 tonnes – equivalent to 16 elephants – but specimens of up to 30 metres and 170 tonnes have been found.

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