March 2, 2011
Monarch butterfly numbers have been disturbingly low across the Central Coast this year. Yet Pacific Grove's Monarch Grove Sanctuary seems to be a top winter destination for the orange-and-black beauties.
A graph on Cal Poly State's Monarch Alert website shows counts of almost 5,000 monarchs in the Sanctuary in mid-January, thousands more than at the second most popular monarch overwintering site in Monterey County, a private property in Big Sur. Seven other sites, including P.G.'s George Washington Park and Point Lobos State Park, saw almost no monarchs this year.
By the last week in February, monarchs had virtually vanished from all of the county's overwintering sites except the Sanctuary, where almost 2,000 butterflies hung on, according to Jessica Griffiths, coordinator of Cal Poly's Monarch Alert program. The next count is scheduled for March 5.
The Sanctuary's monarch count is a particularly touchy subject in P.G., where public anger over excessive tree pruning in fall 2009 led to a citizen movement (later adopted by the city) to mitigate the damage with trees in planter boxes.