Federal wildlife officials are studying whether or not to put a butterfly often found in South Carolina on its endangered species list.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week it will conduct a status review for monarch butterflies under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. A coalition of environmental advocates led by the Center for Biodiversity petitioned for the review in September.
Monarchs are found throughout the United States and southern Canada. Some populations migrate vast distances to winter in Mexico – a journey of over 3,000 miles. The Fish & Wildlife Service said in its announcement that some threats the butterflies include habitat loss – particularly the loss of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s sole food source – and deaths caused by pesticide use. Monarch populations have declined significantly in recent years. Experts say the number of monarchs arriving at wintering grounds in Mexico has been on the decline.
The Fish & Wildlife Service is asking the scientific community for more information during the required 60-day public comment period. After a March 2 deadline, the agency will review the comments and other information before deciding if the monarch should be considered threatened. The agency said that would happen by September 2015. But any additional protections, including classification as “endangered” would likely take years.
While monarchs are found in South Carolina, they are most prevalent along the coast while they migrate southward each fall.