Author Archives: Adam Taylor

Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends! While we celebrated a little earlier here in Canada, it’s always worth taking the opportunity to express our thanks to the people who are making it possible to save the marmots. This species is here today thanks to you.

Our work to save the Vancouver Island Marmot has only been possible thanks to the gifts of donors and the support of partners. Our partners include the Calgary and Toronto Zoos, whose expertise, facilities, and research support have been critical. Landowners TimberWest, Island Timberlands, and Mount Washington Alpine Resort have provided funding, donated land, and created new parks to protect the marmot’s habitat. The Province of BC has provided operating support, office space, and field equipment like trucks to make our work possible.

And our donors’ gifts have provided the financial support to pay the bills, and hire the exceptional, dedicated crew we need to get these marmots back into their wild habitat.

Together, you are showing that Canadians and the World care about our most vulnerable species and that, with work and time, we can save them.

With all our heart, thank you.

October’s Marmot of the Month: Buffy

“When Witches go riding and black cats are seen, the Moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween” – Author unknown.

Needing comfort from the restless dead haunting your dreams? Does your heart need lightening during the dark of All Hallows’ Eve? Then relief we bring, because Buffy is here!

Buffy may not appear to fit the standard mould of monster slayer, being somewhat smaller and furrier than her more famous TV namesake. Can this small and unassuming marmot be a secret monster masher?

Consider this: Buffy lives in the wild Mount Washington colony, where, coincidentally, there are the fewest predators of all our marmot colonies. Is it because of Buffy? Do cougars and wolves dare not tread these hills due to her furry presence? Perhaps … or perhaps there are other factor at play. All we can say for sure is that we rest easier on the mountain knowing Buffy hibernates somewhere nearby. 

At 7 years old, we hope Buffy has a few more years of keeping the forces of evil at bay before she passes the mantle on, perhaps to one of the pups she has nurtured along the way.

Photo by Jordan Cormack. Wooden stake added for … illustrative …. purposes only. 

Canada Post Strike Update: We will get your donations!

We want to assure you that your mail will reach us, despite the current limited job action at Canada Post. As you may have heard, Canada Post has begun rotating strikes, including here on Vancouver Island. The job action may impact how long it takes your mail to reach us, and vice versa, but mail will still be delivered.

Alternatively, you can give to us online at https://marmots.org/how-you-can-help/donate-now/, or phone us at 250 390-0006 – we do love to chat with you about your marmots!

Your gifts are reason we are able to continue the marmots’ recovery. Thank you all so much for supporting this special animal and our work to save it. 

Collaboration to map marmot genetics

More research! The Marmot Recovery Foundation is collaborating with Dr Jamie Gorrell of Vancouver Island University to map the genetics of as much of the captive and wild population as we can get samples from. When complete, this research will help us make more informed choices about which marmots to pair in the captive breeding program and where to release marmots. 

When our recovery effort began, the marmot population was frightening small. At its lowest point, fewer than 30 remained in the wild. With that severe population bottleneck in mind, the captive breeding program’s first priority has been to conserve genetic diversity and minimize inbreeding. But to do that, we have had to make assumptions. For instance, we assume that marmots from distant colonies are not closely related. In the wild, we assume that the male marmot that hibernates with the mother and engages in parenting duties is the father of the pups.

Dr Gorrell’s work will enable us to have a much closer look at the genetics of the marmots, and test whether our assumptions have always been right. If there are areas of concern, for instance a colony where all the marmots are more closely related than we believed (we’re looking you Alan, we know you get around, but just how much getting around have you been up to?), we can take corrective action. For instance, we could release marmots to the site, or even translocate marmots, to give a fresh infusion of needed genes.

We are really excited about Dr Gorrell’s work, and his results will help us better understand the marmots needs.

New marmot paper: Optimizing release strategies: a stepping‐stone approach to reintroduction

The transition from life in a Zoo-setting to life in the wild is dramatic for our Vancouver Island Marmots. Despite the efforts that the Calgary Zoo,  Toronto Zoo and ourselves make to ensure marmot enclosures resemble the wild, with free access to outdoor spaces, artificial burrows, and rocks and logs to climb and carry, there is no way to truly recreate the boundless spaces, cliffs, and meadows of the marmots’ natural habitat. So it’s amazing to see how quickly the marmots adapt to their home. Often we will see them eating wild vegetation within an hour of release (sometimes it is just minutes before they start sampling the local delicacies).

However, we also know that other elements of the transition are harder. Captive bred marmots tend to go exploring more often than their wild born counterparts, which too often puts them in harm’s way. They have a harder time with their first hibernation too, especially in Strathcona Park where conditions can be harsh. The good news is that if these marmots can make it for a couple years, their survival from then on is just as good as their wild-born relatives.

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The snow pack in the southern Nanaimo Lakes region is low this year. While there's still snow on the mountain tops as you can see in the photos, usually there is a lot more. For marmots, right now it means access to vegetation is little easier. But we'll hope for some rain this summer to keep the mountains green right into the fall. Both these photos were taken this Sunday in the Nanaimo Lakes region. ... See MoreSee Less

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Hulk lives! Yesterday the field team visited Mt Arrowsmith, and were able to confirm a number of marmots were active, including one of the largest wild Vancouver Island marmots we’ve ever met. Last summer, Hulk weighed in at an impressive 6.2 kg (approximately 14 pounds). That’s … very large for marmot.

This soon after finishing hibernation, Hulk is likely considerably down from his mid-season weight, but hopefully he’ll put the pounds back on over the next few months. We also noticed an unidentified marmot hanging around Hulk, who we suspect may be his mate. Let’s hope so!
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This meeting of the marmots is now in order.

From earlier today at Mount Washington. Should we be concerned that the marmots are organizing? Great sight for the first field day with this summer's field team though!
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