Locals help track monarch butterflies in Cades Cove

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CADES COVE, Tenn. (WVLT) - A day spent outside and with a purpose. Volunteers are helping collect data about the migration patterns of monarch butterflies in Cades Cove.

Terry Uselton is a citizen-volunteer for the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, and helps lead a group of volunteers to catch and tag butterflies.

"We're catching monarch butterflies and we're tagging them because these monarchs are traveling on their way to Mexico. They're on their migration," Uselton said.

Monarch butterflies fly thousands of miles each year.

"Now that's what makes it a pretty amazing butterfly," Uselton said.

Participants of all ages are welcome to join the group. The day is spent in Cades Cove at various spots where the butterflies tend to congregate.

"They bring them to us and we identify what they are, and it doesn't have to be a monarch. We keep records of what species we find," Uselton said.

Once the butterfly is caught in a net, a small sticker is placed on its wing. This helps researchers and volunteers track the migration of these butterflies.

"We had a couple of butterflies last year that were found in Mexico and they had traveled 2,007 miles from here to get there," Uselton said. "It gets people excited about being in the Smokies. Other than just walking around looking at stuff, they get to do something."

The groups to help catch and tag monarch butterflies through the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont are full for the 2018 season, but the event typically takes place each year on several dates in September and October.