During this flight we were primarily using radio telemetry and looking for tracks in the snow to find marmots that had woken up from hibernation, and was focused on the southern colonies. But the crew also used the opportunity to install a feeder at Steamboat Mountain on the Clayquot Plateau.
Alan, the Bamfield Marmot, is awake and active as he was detected using radio telemetry! So were Sylvia and Quarry, two pioneer marmots. The crew saw marmots at Mt Arrowsmith, but they did not have transponders, so we’ll have to check on up them later to find out who they were. A little marmot mystery!
The marmots are getting active! More to updates to come.
In their first week, the crew is learning how to stay safe while working in the alpine. Travelling on snow and the potential for avalanches are part of the job, so its important to know how to detect dangerous situations. Fortunately the our crew is learning from the best! The Mount Washington Ski Patrol gave lessons on learning to dig snow pits to look for unstable snow layers that might indicate avalanche risk, and how to keep a safe distance from other members of your crew.
While it is still early in the year for Vancouver Island marmots, our survey results so far have been positive. Overwinter survival for the marmots has been high, particularly among breeding aged females. This is exactly what we hope to find at this time of year. Later in the summer when pups start to emerge, we will be looking for signs of reproduction – that is to say active pups. We have feeders out at a number of colonies, which we believe may help the marmots reproduce more frequently. Our fingers are crossed that lots of those breeding-aged females have litters!
Many people have been asking about the weather. Vancouver Island has had a particular cold and wet spring, which followed a cold winter! However, it does not seem to have had any negative impact on the marmots. In fact, weather station data suggests that after a few mild alpine springs, this year’s alpine weather was closer to the historic norm.
While there is a lot of work ahead of us this year, this is good news for the start of the season! ... See MoreSee Less
Vancouver Island marmots are emerging from hibernation. This is wonderful news, but also a challenging time of year for the marmots. As they recover from 7 months of sleep, the marmots rely on the last of their stored energy reserves. Once they have reinvigorated their digestive system, they are able to find food, even in the snow covered mountains. Conditions in the alpine this year are fairly normal, despite the poor weather we have had at lower elevations.
We have put out feeders, targeted to help females improve their body condition rapidly. In turn, we hope they will breed more often than they would without help.
The BBC did a great segment on the challenge Vancouver Island marmots face this time of year: