Author Archives: Adam Taylor

Groundhog Day 2017: What does the Marmot say?

Happy Groundhog Day! According to the CBC, the “western” Groundhogs are saying “more winter.” But we here at the Marmot Recovery Foundation have consulted closely with our “groundhogs”, which are certainly the most western in Canada, and we beg to differ.

For the record, Groundhogs are Marmots. Usually the term “Groundhog” is applied to Monax monax, a widespread species of marmot in North America, and a relative of our Vancouver Island Marmot (Monax vancouverensis). But both species of marmot have a variety of names, including “woodchucks” and “whistle pigs.”

With the educational bit out of the way, just what did the most western marmot of all have to say?

Mostly “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” we’re afraid. Vancouver Island Marmots are still very much in hibernation this time of year. It will likely be another two months before they begin emerge from their burrows. Until then, they will only wake up briefly once every two weeks to have a quick bathroom break. Even then, they will not leave their burrow, and there is no light in the burrow, and therefore no shadows.

Of course, we need a prediction from our furry weather prognosticators! The only trouble is in interpreting the data. We are choosing “early spring”. After all, the marmots did not see their shadows, because there is no way they could! Plus, early spring sounds like more fun.

Summer Positions: Wildlife Technicians Application now Open

The Marmot Recovery Foundation is seeking summer Wildlife Technicians. We are looking for enthusiastic, hard-working individuals that have a passion for wildlife conservation, love to work outdoors, and want to contribute to the success of our exciting recovery program. We are accepting applications until February 7th, 2017.

Number of positions: 1-5 full-time, short-term positions.
Contract length: May 1 – September 1, 2017, with some possibility of extension through September.
Project base: Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.

Main tasks and responsibilities include:
• Hiking for several hours a day on steep, rugged, mountainous terrain with a 10-40lb backpack.
• Precise and consistent collection of inventory, survival, and reproduction data based on radio-telemetry detections and visual observations.
• Accurate and timely data entry.
• Live-trapping and care of Vancouver Island marmots under the direction of the project veterinarian.
• Driving 4×4 trucks on active logging roads, and occasional use of ATVs and/or snowmobiles.
• Camping on trips of up to 10 days in length (sites often accessible only by helicopter).

This project is based in central Nanaimo. Meeting times can be as early as 4am and field days can be very long. In the past, we have hired exceptional individuals that lived outside of Nanaimo; however, all candidates MUST expect to drive to Nanaimo for the start of each field day. No reimbursement for personal fuel or mileage will be offered. Due to the short length of the field season and the high likelihood that weather will change work plans and scheduled days off, candidates must be available for work throughout the contract period.

Successful candidates will possess:
• A Class 5 Drivers License (or equivalent).
• First Aid – minimum OFA Level 1.
• A high level of physical fitness.
• Experience with overnight hiking and camping trips.
• Experience driving 4×4 and all-terrain vehicles in steep, mountainous terrain.
• A detail-oriented mindset, and the ability to remember and follow specific directions regarding data collection protocols and animal care.
• A commitment to adhere to safety protocols and contribute to safe operating practices.
• Strong communication skills, a positive attitude, and the ability to contribute to a fun and supportive team environment.
• Experience working around animals and a knowledge of animal husbandry techniques would be a bonus.

To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and the names and contact information for three references to the Field Coordinator, Cheyney Jackson, at: cheyney@marmots.org.

Applications must be received by 4pm Wednesday, February 8. We would like to thank all applicants for their interest in this project. Only those applicants chosen for interviews will be contacted. We anticipate scheduling interviews in the weeks of February 20 and 27. Some positions may be funded by Summer Jobs Canada. Additional eligibility requirements may apply.

Winter Tasks – Building Feeders

One of our winter tasks is building new feeders for spring. The goal of these feeders is help improve the body condition of wild marmots early in the year. The better their body condition is, the more likely it is they will breed – and wild pups are our goal!


We build these feeders to keep the food dry and they are designed to survive the harsh alpine spring weather. The marmots seem to enjoy the feeders almost as much as the food, and they often sit on them to get out of the deep snow!

Our food supplement is “primate biscuits”. These biscuits are designed for animals that eat leafy foliage, and they are a good nutrient match for our marmots.


Harry seemed to enjoy his!

Remember the year that was, and thinking of years to come

As the end of the year approaches and I think back on the year that was, I recalled this lovely note that the Foundation received from Tom and Margaret. Their message wonderfully captures one of the great hopes I have for our work: that future generations will have the chance to experience seeing the marmot, and other endangered wildlife, in the wild.

Many thanks to Tom and Margaret for sharing this with us, and to everyone who has shared their stories with us. We love your messages and encouragement!

Adam Taylor, Executive Director

Hi Everyone –

On Father’s Day, June 19th our son-in-law, Brad, took the children up Mt. Washington to ride on the ski lift. On the way up they spotted a lone marmot on the right-and side of the lift. On the way down, about 15-20 minutes later, it was still sitting in the same spot. This time Brad had his camera out and took the enclosed pictures. (Between 5-5:30pm)

Even though we have supporters of your great recovery program for a number of years we have never had the fortune of seeing one of these beautiful creatures in the wild. I’m so glad my grandchildren have had the opportunity.

Please know we admire and appreciate all the good work you are doing to save our Vancouver Island marmots. Best wishes always.

Most Sincerely,

Tom and Margaret”

(Please note this scan was altered to remove personal information)

Restoration work on Mt Moriarty

It’s November (just in case you’re not near a calendar). That means all the marmots should be in bed, and we should be busy writing field season reports. Things aren’t going to plan. 

Continuous, heavy rain delayed planned restoration work for over a month, but just as we were giving up hope, a brief break in the weather enabled us to get a crew into Mt Moriarty to restore a key feature of marmot habitat – sight lines.

When marmots see a predator near their meadow, they will sit up, often on a high rock near a quick escape into a safe burrow. If the predator gets too close, the marmots whistle to alert the rest of the colony, and if the predator continues to approach, the marmot will whistle again and then dive for its escape route. It is not a foolproof system, but it generally works reasonable well as long as conditions are right.

One of those conditions is maintaining sight lines. If the marmots cannot see the predators because of trees or branches, then the warning system falls apart. In the past, this cover was cleared from marmot meadows by avalanches, but a number of years of below average snow falls have allowed significant cover to grow in a number of meadows in the more southern marmot colonies.
Our first priority was Mt Moriarty in the Nanaimo Lakes region. Our restoration goal at Mt Moriarty was to remove this stalking cover by hand, restore the marmots’ sight lines, and minimize disruption to the marmots. In October, Crew Leader Mike Lester prepared the site with staff from BC Wildfire Service and Island Timberlands by flagging all marmot hibernacula – no work would be conducted too close to a burrow – and making safety plans for the site by marking and clearing debris from access trails, flagging hazards, and planning how to manage woody debris to eliminate any increased risk of wildfire with the BC Wildlife Service. After that, all we needed was a small patch of dryish weather and the work could get done.

We waited. And waited. And started making contingency plans. And finally, after a record-setting month of rain, we spotted a clearing in the weather. Mike and volunteers Sean, Jerry, and Alicia headed up to do the work. It can be hard to see in the photos, but they put in an incredible day and got about 95% of problematic cover removed! Hopefully, the marmots that hibernate in the meadow were blissfully unaware of anything unusual happening, and will awake in the spring to an improved view.

The Foundation is extremely grateful to Sean, Jerry, and Alicia, all whom work for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, for volunteering for a hard job and doing amazing work. Also to Island Timberlands and the BC Wildfire Service for coming out with Mike to prepare the site and assisting with safety and fire plans. Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program also matched donations and volunteer time for this work, which made this project possible. Thank you all!

We hope the marmots don’t notice a thing – except for predators of course!

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Thank you to the Strathcona Wilderness Institute and everyone who came to the presentation last night in Courtenay. In particular, thank you sharing your marmot sightings and stories with me!

Next up is a presentation for Cowichan Valley Naturalists with Sally Leigh-Spencer, co-author of the upcoming Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Strategy and I in April. Assuming it has stopped snowing by then!
- Adam Taylor
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The Strathcona Wilderness Institute is hosting the Marmot Recovery Foundation's Executive Director this Sunday in Courtenay! Learn about the history of the marmot recovery project, the marmot's current status, and plans for the season ahead.

We'd love to see you there, but if you can't make it Adam will be speaking again in April for the Cowichan Valley Naturalists, and of course we will post news here as well!
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On February 26th at 7.00 pm in the Rotary Room, Florence Filberg Centre in Courtenay, SWI is presenting an illustrated talk by Adam Taylor, the executive Directors of the Vancouver Island Marmot Reco...

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Thank you to people from GROWLS and Gabriola Island who hosted a presentation on the marmot's recovery last night. Beautiful island and wonderful people! ... See MoreSee Less

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