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Monarch butterfly population rebounding

Monarch butterfly eating milkweed plant (WLUK/Eric Peterson
Monarch butterfly eating milkweed plant (WLUK/Eric Peterson
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Have you noticed more monarch butterflies this year?

The World Wildlife Fund says the population of the little flyers has rebounded from last year's record low.

Monarch butterflies feasts on milkweed plants at The Ridges Sanctuary near Baileys Harbor.

It's a welcome sight for land manager Brian Forest.

"There were a couple of lean years, where people really didn't see monarchs around. And even to the point where they took note, and said boy, I haven't seen a monarch," said Brian Forest, The Ridges Sanctuary Land Manager.

Researchers say the monarch population dropped 90 percent in the last 20 years, due to loss of habitat both in fields, and migration grounds in Mexico.

The monarchs lay their eggs on the milkweed plant, and caterpillars feed on the weed as well.

"I think public awareness is a big part," said Forest.

Forest says there's a push to plant more milkweed.

"I think more people are aware of the value of leaving things fallow, and letting milkweed grow. Maybe less pesticide use in some areas," he said.

At the Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary in Green Bay, naturalists say they are helping as well. Students and staff built a garden this year designed specifically with butterflies in mind.

"We do have some milkweed. We have some golden rod here. It looks like there are some black-eyed susans that are in here. So a lot of different native species," said Kim Diedrich, Bay Beach Wildlife Sanctuary Chief Naturalist.

Diedrich says adult monarchs will feed on the flowers.

"And then they go to another plant, and they help pollinate and reproduce the plant as well. So they're very beneficial insects to have and help in the wild," she said.

The monarchs live only about a month. But those born in late summer will live longer. They will make the 2,000-mile migration to spend the winter in Mexico.

Programs are going on nationwide to help the Monarch butterflies.

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That includes restoring more than 200,000 acres of habitats and planting 750 butterfly-friendly gardens.

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