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By Brian Park
San Juan Capistrano is known for the swallows, but how about another famed migratory creature—the monarch butterfly?
Around the globe, the monarch butterfly population has dropped dramatically in the past decade due to habitat loss, increased use of herbicides and climate change.
Volunteers with the Los Rios Garden Angels have been trying to make Los Rios Park a safe haven for the butterflies by planting California milkweed, a plant the mature insects use to lay their eggs on and a food source for developing caterpillars.
Their efforts have been successful, but recently, an individual was spotted capturing the butterflies at the park with a net, much to the dismay of Ramos House Café owner John Q. Humphries, whose property sits directly across the street.
Humphries, who provides the Garden Angels a free breakfast for their volunteer work, contacted Marianne Taylor, who started the group, and offered to buy a batch of monarch butterflies to release.
“Someone pilfered the butterflies out of the sky,” Humphries said. “The park is basically my front yard and (the Garden Angels) take care of it.
Humphries purchased four dozen monarch butterflies from a company he said raises them for weddings and special events. On Thursday, August 1, Humphries, his family and the Garden Angels gathered in front of the Montanez Adobe, and with the help of his goddaughter, Lucy McCray, the butterflies were released into the park.
Taylor said she has contacted the city and anticipates that Los Rios Park will be designated as a butterfly sanctuary so that they will no longer be disturbed.