Author Archives: Adam Taylor

The Force Awakens: Calgary celebrates Star Wars with Marmot Pups

“The Force Awakens”, but hopefully the Vancouver Island Marmots sleep through Christmas! Meet Luke & Leia, Han Solo (hopefully not “solo” for long – we need them Marmots breeding!), Jabba,& Yoda. These captive bred marmots are “A New Hope” for the species. At the Calgary Zoo, these Star Wars theme named pups will be part of the next generation of Vancouver Island Marmots released into the wild in 2016.

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Adam Taylor joining the Marmot Recovery Foundation

Adam Taylor is joining the Marmot Recovery Foundation as the incoming Executive Director. Over the next month he will be assuming Viki’s role, as she retires to new adventures! In a while, we’ll have some notes on Viki’s retirement, and all that she has accomplished on behalf of the Marmots. But first, an introduction from Adam:

“The story of the Vancouver Island Marmot is a remarkable one, and I am very excited to start playing a part in that story, albeit a small and backstage one.

While I am new to the Marmots, I do bring some experience in conservation and in protecting species at risk. For the past 8 years I was the Executive Director of Habitat Acquisition Trust, a local land trust that works to conserve natural areas and species in the Greater Victoria-area. For me, the opportunity to help the Marmot was too great to pass up. Vancouver Island Marmots are a special animal in ways, and their story gives me hope for the future of other endangered species struggling to hold on in a changing world.

The Marmot Recovery Foundation and our partners have done a remarkable job of bringing this uniquely Canadian species back from the very brink of extinction. Thanks to work of caring individuals and communities, the population of wild Vancouver Island Marmots has risen from a low of 27 in 2003 to around 300 today. In the times we live in, it is rare to hear of such success in recovering an endangered species, and heartening for all of us who care for our planet’s wildlife.

Adam TaylorHowever, conservation is never without challenges, and I know that we still have our work cut out for us. At 300 marmots, there are still fewer marmots in the wild today than there are Giant Pandas (1500 to 3000), Mountain Gorillas (about 800), or Siberian Tigers (about 500). The Marmot continues to keep company with the most the endangered animals on Earth. At same time, new threats are emerging to jeopardize Marmots. Climate change is occurring much faster in the Marmots’ alpine habitats than in the low-lands, and significant changes are already being observed. Lower snowpacks and warmer winters may make it harder for marmots to hibernate. As well, a rising tree-line brings deer and elk browsing for food, and with them come other predators, for whom a marmot might be an easy snack. There are political challenges too – government funding cuts, and shifting priorities.

Despite that, I remain optimistic. Extremely so, even. The reality is that it has taken a community to launch and sustain the rescue of the Vancouver Island Marmot. While I speak of the work of biologists, zoo keepers, and veterinarians, it is the support of donors who have made their work possible. Donations have been and continue to be the largest part of the funding that enable biologists like Cheyney Jackson and Mike Lester, and wildlife vets like Malcolm McAdie to do their work.

I am looking forward to meeting you, and working with you to ensure that Vancouver Island Marmots are part of our future.”

Adam Taylor
Vancouver Island, BC

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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:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=Svm6yqKx-Go
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Our first marmot rescue of the season is complete!

Late last year, we learned of a family of Vancouver Island marmots that established themselves near Knight Lake. We knew from past experience that they would not survive long low elevation, unsuitable habitat and sought to capture and relocate them. We were able to catch two pups and the father, but the mother and another pup eluded us. With winter coming, we struggled to decide how to give these marmots, especially the breeding age female, the best survival chance possible. In the end we made the decision to release the father back to the cutblock with a transmitter that would enable us to track him and his family again in the spring. This meant that we could follow up as early as possible in the spring to get them out.

This year, by tracking the transmitter, our crew was able to find the marmots in the spring snow. Our veterinarian, Malcolm McAdie, with crew members Norberto and Steve, snowshoed in and captured the mother. We’ll return once a bit more snow has melted to capture the father and other pup. Malcolm, Norberto, and Steve hiked the mother out – not an easy task with a marmot on your back! She will be released to a marmot
colony later this summer, hopefully with her yearling and the father.

By the way, the mother is the first marmot to be named this year. First on our name-a-marmot winners list was Vanna. Given where she was recovered from, we have dubbed her Vanna Knight!
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The marmots are starting to emerge from their burrows! We've spotted an opened burrow on Mt Washington, and then one of our Field Crew, Jake, spotted these wonderful marmot tracks on Mt Albert Edward in Strathcona Park! The season is just beginning, and many of the marmots are still in hibernation, but we are excited to see these first signs of emergence. ... See MoreSee Less

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