The ocean is lovely, but it is not marmot habitat. So when we received a phone call in 2015 from the seaside Bamfield Marine Science Centre about a marmot at their facility, we were skeptical. It made no sense. There are no marmot colonies, no marmot habitat, and no reasons we could fathom for a marmot to be anywhere near Bamfield.
We requested evidence. To which Dr. Reynolds and his students responded by sending us a photo. Of a marmot, on the beach. It’s hard to say whether this mystery marmot was enjoying his visit to the shore, or confused about the lack of alpine flowers, but regardless, he was there, and we figured he might need some help getting back to mountains. With the help of Dr. Reynolds and his students, we were able to trap the marmot now dubbed “Alan,” and release him to the colony at Haley Lake Ecological Reserve.
At this point, you may have some questions. Where did Alan come from? We don’t know. How did survive the minimum of 50km (and probably much more) of forests, rivers, and inlets between the nearest marmot colonies and Bamfield? We don’t know that either. Does he enjoy surfing and nibbling on eelgrass? Please stop.
Why did Alan travel all that way? Well, yes, we don’t strictly speaking know that either, but we can guess at this one. At 2 years old, many marmots, particularly males, leave their birth colony to look for new potential mates. Sometimes, they get lost or pick the wrong direction. When you consider the vast mountain wilds and the relatively small and hidden marmot colonies, it is remarkable that marmots ever manage to find another colony, though many do. Our guess is that Alan however picked the wrong direction and then just kept going.
Alan has continued his adventures, though thankfully choosing to stay in marmot habitat. After a three year tour of the Nanaimo Lakes region, he returned to Haley Lake, and is currently hibernating with Muffin. Hopefully, in the summer ahead Alan will finally try out being a Dad!