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Updates from the Team

Remember Snow?

Each spring, field crew visit Vancouver Island marmot colonies to determine which marmots survived the winter. As part of this task, they also scour the mountain tops to locate the special burrows that marmots hibernate in (called a “hibernaculum”). Usually, this is a fairly easy task. You see, marmots hibernate underground, and so their feet, nose and tummy get covered in soil. In spring, when marmots leave their hibernacula and dig up through several feet of snow to the surface, marmots create a dirty-looking tunnel in the snow that we call an “emergence hole”.

But there’s something missing this spring that we usually see in other years, particularly in the Nanaimo Lakes region. We’ll give you a hint it’s fluffy, white, and a great insulator for hibernating marmots…that’s right, we’re talking about snow! This past winter, there was very little snow at the Nanaimo Lakes marmot colonies. This means that these marmots didn’t even have to dig emergence holes this spring – they just stepped out of their burrows! So in order to show you what an emergence hole looks like, we took a photo at one of the fledgling colonies in Strathcona Provincial Park, where marmots woke up this spring with at least a little bit of snow to dig through.

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Hide and Seek

Our field season kicked off on May 1st, and in their very first week on the project, field crew already discovered something new and exciting – there was an extra litter of marmot pups on Mt. Washington last year! Vancouver Island marmot pups are rarely seen above ground before early July. By this time, the vegetation around their burrow has grown really tall. Pups are excellent at hiding, and so it can be a challenge to see them when they don’t want to be seen. This litter could have won any game of Hide and Seek!

Vancouver Island marmot pups are born in early June, and so these four pups haven’t quite reached their first birthday. But they have survived their first summer and their first hibernation, which is a really good sign. Keep up the great work, pups!

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Meet This Year’s Field Crew

The Vancouver Island marmot field crew is back and better than ever!

This year’s field crew will be guided by crew leader Mike Lester and
returning crew members Shawn Lukas and Patrick Reid. Over time, we’ve found that the most important qualities for field crew are enthusiasm, tenacity, and a curiosity to learn more. You’ll be happy to know that these three have this in spades!

We are also excited to welcome new crew members to our project. Andrew Horsfield, Hannah Hall, Zachary Palmer, and Trevor Dickinson are the fantastic new talent we brought in to help us achieve our recovery goals this summer. With such a keen group of marmoteers, we know that the Vancouver Island marmot is in good hands this summer!

Check in again for our wild updates.

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It’s spring and we’re off to an early start!

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After a very light winter with almost no snow on many of our lower elevation colonies, the marmots were up early this spring. This was confirmed by one of our returning field crew, who was so excited for another marmot season that he couldn’t quite wait until our official start date on May 1st. According to his report, the marmots were playing, fighting, foraging, and doing all kinds of marmoty activities. It seems that humans weren’t the only animals impatient for spring to start!

Since it is May 1st, we must wish you a very happy Vancouver Island Marmot Day! To celebrate this year’s VI Marmot Day, we are thrilled to have something extra-special to share with you. While working out in the field and conducting inventory at marmot colonies, our field crew have gathered hundreds of hours of video footage of Vancouver Island marmots in the wild…and so we created a YouTube channel so that we can share some of these videos with you! We will post just a few videos at first, but check in with us over the course of the field season, and we’ll post new ones as often as we can. We hope you will enjoy watching them as much as we did.

http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq9BDTTw9n9_3njOL277VIw

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Comox Valley Visitor’s Centre Features Rarest Marmot In The World!


If you’ve never seen a Vancouver Island marmot here’s your chance.

Just opened, this state of the art Visitor’s Centre will feature interactive alpine, ocean, agricultural and forest related displays including a life-sized marmot burrow

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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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