Well, it had to happen sometime – the 2015 Vancouver Island marmot field season has officially come to an end. We thought this would be the perfect time to review some of our activities and findings this past summer. It was a crazy ride!
Early emergence – The marmots at some colonies were up and about before we even thought to go looking for them! In most years, marmots emerge in May or June, but this year, marmots at one colony in the Nanaimo Lakes region were up and running (literally!) in the first week of April.
Releases – In June and July, we released 24 captive-bred marmots into the wild. Thirteen were released on Mt. Washington for pre-conditioning or for breeding purposes, and eleven were released directly into beautiful Strathcona Provincial Park.
Translocations – To give those eleven captive-bred marmots some experienced buddies to teach them how to live in the wild, we mixed them into groups with 4 pre-conditioned marmots (captive-bred but already had one year of wild experience) and 12 wild-born marmots. These marmot groups were released at seven locations in Strathcona Provincial Park.
Reproduction – We counted at least 35 pups in the Nanaimo Lakes region, 9 pups on Mt. Washington or in Forbidden Plateau, 4 pups in Western Strathcona, and 4 pups at one of our experimental colonies in Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park. That adds up to a grand total of 52 pups seen in the wild in 2015!
Dispersal – Every year, some teenage marmots decide to leave their natal colony to find and join a new colony where they can breed. This process is incredibly important for the health and persistence of wild marmot populations. We were excited to confirm at least 4 successful dispersals in Nanaimo Lakes, 6 in Forbidden Plateau, and 2 in Western Strathcona.
Early hibernation – After such a mild winter and spring, the marmots gained weight early and quickly this summer. By August 20, we found marmots preparing for the 2015-16 hibernation. Vancouver Island marmots are excellent hibernators, so for the marmots that survived to hibernation, there is a very good chance that we’ll see them again next year. In fact, we’re already looking forward to it!
Biggest surprise of 2015 – This award clearly goes to Alan, the Vancouver Island marmot that nearly became a Pacific Ocean marmot when he made his home at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre!
We hope that you enjoyed hearing about our recovery efforts this past season. Next year’s field season will start in May 2016, and if this year was any indication, there are sure to be all kinds of exciting discoveries. Until then, we wish you a warm and cozy hibernation!