Anyone who watched “Flight of the Butterflies” at the Faulkner Planetarium might conclude that monarchs bypass much of the Great Basin.

The butterfly known for its spectacular, multi-generational migration is here — in fact, it’s Idaho’s state insect — but scientists didn’t know a lot about its flyways through Idaho or the distribution of milkweed and monarch breeding. As recently as 2014, only a scattering of records existed for all of Idaho.

That’s changing. Idaho, Washington and other partners last year collaborated to fill in data gaps on monarchs and milkweed, the sole food source for their caterpillars. This year, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game will survey monarchs and milkweed in the remaining areas of the state, host a workshop for citizen scientists and tag more migratory-generation monarchs.

“Most Western monarchs migrate to hundreds of small, wooded groves along the California coast to overwinter,” writes Beth Waterbury, a Salmon-based wildlife biologist for Fish and Game. “In contrast, the much larger Eastern population — generally found east of the Rocky Mountains — migrates to high-elevation fir forests in central Mexico.”

Petitioned for protection under the Endangered Species Act, the monarch clearly needs help. In the past 20 years, overwintering monarch populations have declined by 74 percent in coastal California and more than 80 percent in central Mexico.

But west of the Rockies, conservation efforts need a better understanding of the reasons for decline.

Now there’s a way you can help compile the data.

Launched in February, the online Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper ( is a repository for users’ reports of milkweed and monarch occurrences across 11 Western states. You just need a smartphone or a digital camera and access to a computer. The data you submit feeds directly into a growing database which already has more than 40,000 Western monarch and milkweed records — historic to present-day — that you can explore and download.

Your observations can help answer key questions for the West: Where do various milkweed species grow, and in what habitats? Where are monarchs occurring? Where and when are they breeding? When is milkweed emerging and dying back?

Users can also learn more about Western monarch conservation efforts and participate in citizen science projects, and the website’s interactive milkweed ID tool helps users identify 46 milkweed species.

Magic Mountain

With its bounty of snow, Magic Mountain Resort finally made the call: The ski area south of Hansen will remain open through March 25 — a week later than last year.

And it plans some unusual fun on closing day: nighttime disc golf played on snowshoes.

The Magic Mountain Snowshoe Night Round, at 7 p.m. March 25, will feature nine holes played twice, with a couple of safari holes for an extra challenge. The $20 cost includes snowshoe rental, your choice of hot dog or hamburger, a soda and the $5 entry fee.

“Don’t worry, we are not playing the regular course,” Magic Mountain writes. “This will be a new layout catered to not losing plastic.”

Preregister at Disc Golf DC, 758 Falls Ave. in Twin Falls, or by calling store owner Mike Stradley at 208-308-4997. For information on the event, call or text JD Merchant at 208-404-1640.

The resort seems optimistic this will catch on, billing its snowshoe disc golf as the “first annual.”

Sun Valley

Sun Valley Resort, too, weighed in on probable closing dates for its two ski mountains.

“At this time Dollar is scheduled close April 2 and Baldy is scheduled to operate through April 16 depending on weather and snow conditions,” the resort’s social media team wrote Friday in response to my inquiry.

Climbers’ knots

Magic Valley Gear Exchange, at 364 Second Ave. E. in Twin Falls, is kicking off its new season of free Thursday-night clinics this week. The “Knotty Knot Clinic,” 5:30-7:30 p.m., will go over several knots common in rock climbing.

“These knots can be used in many different ways,” store owner Tony Roberts writes, “so if you’re not a climber please don’t be shy.”

Record fish

Idaho’s flow of new catch-and-release fish records has slowed, but the Snake River just yielded a new one. Dave Gassel of Boise secured the first record for tilapia with a 15-incher caught Feb. 21 near Hagerman.

Owl prowl

If you’re up for a long day and a cold night of birding, you’re welcome to join Prairie Falcon Audubon members Saturday on their field trip and owl prowl in the Hagerman Wildlife Management Area.

They’ll gather at 2 p.m. at a member’s Hagerman home, head out for birding on the WMA, reconvene for a potluck supper, then head back out to look and listen for owls in the dark. On past Hagerman outings, birders have seen or heard great horned, Western screech, Northern saw-whet and barn owls.

For the details, email Sarah Harris, president of the Audubon chapter, at Among other things, she’ll tell you to wear quiet fabrics and noise-proof your belongings.

Virginia Hutchins is enterprise editor of the Times-News and; reach her at or 208-735-3242.


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