Monarch Butterflies have made an impressive return to their winter resting place in California, after a record-low survey count from last year. Specialists consider the return a grain of hope for the endangered species, which were thought to come close to extinction for the area.

Xerces Society does a yearly count of the monarch butterflies that migrate West around early November. A 2020 survey showed that “only 1,914 monarchs were counted at all the sites. This is a shocking 99.9% decline since the 1980s.”

But, an unofficial count done by researchers and volunteers showed there are over 50,000 monarchs at common landing sites already in 2021, a report by Xerces Society said.

Monarch butterflies were declared an endangered species by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in December of 2020.

“I don’t recall having such a bad year before and I thought they were done. They were gone. They’re not going to ever come back and sure enough, this year, boom, they landed,” said Moe Ammar, president of Pacific Grove Chamber of Commerce, also known as "Butterfly Town, USA."

Specialists are not sure why the population took off this year, but it is suggested that it could be from better breeding grounds and an influx from the East coast.

“Climatic factors could have influenced the population. We could have gotten an influx of monarchs from the eastern U.S., which occasionally can happen, but it’s not known for sure why the population is what it is this year,” said Sarina Jepsen, Director of Endangered Species at Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

The surveys have been done every year since 1997, and are known as "The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count." It lasts for three weeks, with Thanksgiving being a central point.

Western monarchs are known to return to the same places every year, including even the same trees. They alternate from the Pacific Northwest to California during a change in seasons to keep warm. They usually start to spread out again around March.

A city just south of San Francisco, Pacific Grove, is known to be one of the most popular areas for them to flock back to. The city has worked for years to help the population from declining. It is referenced as “Butterfly Town, USA,” where even messing with a monarch can land someone a $1000 fine.

Last year, the town recorded no monarch butterflies. This year the count showed around 13,000 of them.

Climate change and farming are considered to be the main reason for the decline of Western monarch butterflies since the 1980s, according to researchers. The butterfly’s habitat consists of areas filled with milkweed, which have been uprooted due to housing construction.

“California has been in a drought for several years now, and they need nectar sources in order to be able to fill their bellies and be active and survive,” said Stephanie Turcotte Edenholm, a Pacific Grove Natural History Museum docent who offers guided tours of the sanctuary. “If we don’t have nectar sources and we don’t have the water that’s providing that, then that is an issue.”