Butterflies are Free in Pacific Grove, CA

monarch butterfly

In Pacific Grove, California, under a city ordinance, tourist monarch butterflies have a right to “peaceful occupancy” during their annual convention there.

Even if the butterflies are swarming one’s home, interfering with occupancy and use, they can only be removed to another location on application to the police. Here’s the ordinance:

11.48.010 Interference With Prohibited.

It is declared to be unlawful for any person to molest or interfere with, in any way, the peaceful occupancy of the monarch butterflies on their annual visit to the city of Pacific Grove, and during the entire time they remain within the corporate limits of the city, in whatever spot they may choose to stop in, provided, however, that if said butterflies should at any time swarm in, upon or near the private dwelling house or other buildings of a citizen of the city of Pacific Grove in such a way as to interfere with the occupancy and use of said dwelling and/or other buildings, that said butterflies may be removed, if possible, to another location upon the application of said citizen to the chief of police.

You can see it coming. A massive class action asserting equal protection claims on behalf of other bugs similarly situated under rapidly descending rolled-up newspapers and clouds of poison gas.

Seriously though, it’s a good law. Every year, monarch butterflies take up residence in Pacific Grove as part of their migration south. They winter in Mexico, after traveling 2500 miles, the only insect to accomplish such a feat. Pretty impressive.

— City of Pacific Grove, CA Ord. 210 N.S. §§ 8-3060, 1952. Thanks to Lihwei Lin.


6 comments to Butterflies are Free in Pacific Grove, CA

  • Why didn’t you use an image of a Monarch butterfly with this story?

    The image you have chosen (captioned “Don’t mess with me when I’m on vacation, man.”) is that of a Viceroy (Limenitis archippus).

  • Andrew J. McClurg

    Hmm, wish I had a better explanation, but ignorance of the difference is the most accurate one. Thanks for pointing out the error.

  • Hi there,

    Found your site after a search for the “peaceful occupy” ordinance of Pacific Grove in reference to the monarch butterfly.
    I just returned from visiting Pacific Grove with a group of educators and I am gathering notes for a presentation.

    You can only imagine my surprise to see not a monarch image on your site, but that of a viceroy!

    I can see that Jacqui Knight noticed also. If you need a nice photo of a monarch, I will gladly supply you with one, so as not to confuse searchers when they land on your site.

  • connie masotti

    Your article is also incorrect in that you state that Pacific Grove is part of their migration south. The western monarch, all monarch west of the rocky mountains, do not migrate to mexico. Their migration is to the california coast between san francisco area and san diego, in micro climates that work for them to overwinter.

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Andrew Jay McClurg is a law professor whose teaching and research interests include tort law, products liability, legal education, privacy law and firearms policy. He holds the Herbert Herff Chair of Excellence in Law at the University of Memphis Cecil C. Humphreys School of Law.
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