Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to join our Field Coordinator, Cheyney Jackson, on a trip to a number of Vancouver Island marmot colonies in Strathcona Provincial Park. It was a remarkable experience for me to visit this incredibly beautiful Park. Wildflower meadows, glacial blue lakes, limestone cliffs, and snow-topped mountains define a landscape occupied by an abundance of wildlife.
We were there to collect data from remote cameras we use to monitor hibernaculums, and hopefully see a few marmots along the way. In particular, we were hoping to see pups, and we were not disappointed.
Until recently, marmots had been completely extirpated from Strathcona Park. Why marmots in the Park disappeared is not entirely clear. Perhaps with new roads in and around the Park, predators found it easier to get into the high elevation meadows where marmots live. Possibly the construction of the Strathcona Dam, which greatly changed Upper Campbell and Buttle Lakes, made it more difficult for marmots to find each other’s’ colonies, which would have made them more vulnerable to many threats.
With funding from the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, the Recovery project began the long process of re-introducing marmots to the Park in 2008. Since then the marmots we have released have established small colonies around Buttle Lake. The population is not yet stable, and there have been challenges, and setbacks along the way.
There are encouraging signs too however. Just in the past few years, marmots have begun to move successfully between colonies. One marmot even made the journey all the way from Mt Washington to a colony on the west side of Buttle Lake. It took two years, with stops at several colonies along the way, but is exactly the kind of trip we wanted to see. The pups Cheyney and I saw are another positive sign that these unique animals are making a comeback in Strathcona Park.
It would not be possible see and hear these animals without the support of donors and funding from the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Fund. Thank you for making our work possible!
-Adam Taylor, Executive Director
This Project is funded by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP). The FWCP is partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and public stakeholders to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the construction of BC Hydro dams.