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Updates from the Team

May the 4th be with you!

Happy Star Wars Day! May the 4th be with you. Last year, the Calgary Zoo named the young marmots to be released after Stars Wars characters, and boy have some of them been on adventures worthy of their names!

In the oops department: Han Solo… well, lets just say mistakes were made, and Han Solo has been redubbed Hanna Solo! She’s still in hibernation on Mt Washington, but marmots are just starting to get more active.

“Luke, I am your… brother?” Of course, these marmots are all the same generation, so Anakin is actually Luke’s brother, not father! Speaking of Luke….

As Yoda said “Luke, you must not go”, but did Luke listen? No, of course not, and neither did our Luke. After being released in Strathcona Park, we lost track of him. Fortunately, Luke was spotted in November, but to our surprise, he was well outside the Park, far from home or safety. We were able to rescue him, but given how late in the season it was, he could not be released back to the wild. Instead, he spent the winter hibernating in the marmot facility on Mt Washington, and will be released to the wild again this summer.

Next time, can we name the marmots something less adventurous?

Han, oops, Hanna Solo on release day in 2016 at Mt Washington

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From Hedgehogs to Marmots: Young supporters inspire us with their efforts!

We would to extend a special thank you to young people who are helping recover the Vancouver Island Marmot. Your stories and efforts are inspiring! Today we’d like share such two stories that we received.
The first comes from Cohen, age 8, who was doing a project on Hedgehogs at his Comox Valley school that included a fundraising component. Cohen wanted his fundraising efforts to have a local impact, so he decided to raise funds for the Vancouver Island Marmots. What a great example of thinking global and acting local! Thank you Cohen.
Sometimes though, it works the other way around! Despite being on vacation England, our Field Coordinator Cheyney couldn’t help but talk about marmots. After returning home, Cheyney was delighted to get the letter below from Holly-Kathleen, who was clearly moved by Cheyney’s work to recover the marmots! Thank you to both Cohen and Holly-Kathleen, and to everyone, young and old, who supports our work. It is because of your gifts that we are able to make the recovery of this unique species possible!
 
 
 

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Pup Boxing!

Like like us, marmot siblings fight constantly! This type of play teaches the marmots fine motor skills, and likely social behaviours too, such as how to ask for space. These pups were recorded by one of our Field Crew, Joey Chrisholm, in 2016 at Mt Washington. The pups won’t get names until they turn at least one year old, but their mother is Abby, a wild born marmot who has been a great breeder. We need more like her to help the species recover!

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Groundhog Day 2017: What does the Marmot say?

Happy Groundhog Day! According to the CBC, the “western” Groundhogs are saying “more winter.” But we here at the Marmot Recovery Foundation have consulted closely with our “groundhogs”, which are certainly the most western in Canada, and we beg to differ.

For the record, Groundhogs are Marmots. Usually the term “Groundhog” is applied to Monax monax, a widespread species of marmot in North America, and a relative of our Vancouver Island Marmot (Monax vancouverensis). But both species of marmot have a variety of names, including “woodchucks” and “whistle pigs.”

With the educational bit out of the way, just what did the most western marmot of all have to say?

Mostly “zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz” we’re afraid. Vancouver Island Marmots are still very much in hibernation this time of year. It will likely be another two months before they begin emerge from their burrows. Until then, they will only wake up briefly once every two weeks to have a quick bathroom break. Even then, they will not leave their burrow, and there is no light in the burrow, and therefore no shadows.

Of course, we need a prediction from our furry weather prognosticators! The only trouble is in interpreting the data. We are choosing “early spring”. After all, the marmots did not see their shadows, because there is no way they could! Plus, early spring sounds like more fun.

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Summer Positions: Wildlife Technicians Application now Open

The Marmot Recovery Foundation is seeking summer Wildlife Technicians. We are looking for enthusiastic, hard-working individuals that have a passion for wildlife conservation, love to work outdoors, and want to contribute to the success of our exciting recovery program. We are accepting applications until February 7th, 2017.

Number of positions: 1-5 full-time, short-term positions.
Contract length: May 1 – September 1, 2017, with some possibility of extension through September.
Project base: Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.

Main tasks and responsibilities include:
• Hiking for several hours a day on steep, rugged, mountainous terrain with a 10-40lb backpack.
• Precise and consistent collection of inventory, survival, and reproduction data based on radio-telemetry detections and visual observations.
• Accurate and timely data entry.
• Live-trapping and care of Vancouver Island marmots under the direction of the project veterinarian.
• Driving 4×4 trucks on active logging roads, and occasional use of ATVs and/or snowmobiles.
• Camping on trips of up to 10 days in length (sites often accessible only by helicopter).

This project is based in central Nanaimo. Meeting times can be as early as 4am and field days can be very long. In the past, we have hired exceptional individuals that lived outside of Nanaimo; however, all candidates MUST expect to drive to Nanaimo for the start of each field day. No reimbursement for personal fuel or mileage will be offered. Due to the short length of the field season and the high likelihood that weather will change work plans and scheduled days off, candidates must be available for work throughout the contract period.

Successful candidates will possess:
• A Class 5 Drivers License (or equivalent).
• First Aid – minimum OFA Level 1.
• A high level of physical fitness.
• Experience with overnight hiking and camping trips.
• Experience driving 4×4 and all-terrain vehicles in steep, mountainous terrain.
• A detail-oriented mindset, and the ability to remember and follow specific directions regarding data collection protocols and animal care.
• A commitment to adhere to safety protocols and contribute to safe operating practices.
• Strong communication skills, a positive attitude, and the ability to contribute to a fun and supportive team environment.
• Experience working around animals and a knowledge of animal husbandry techniques would be a bonus.

To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and the names and contact information for three references to the Field Coordinator, Cheyney Jackson, at: cheyney@marmots.org.

Applications must be received by 4pm Wednesday, February 8. We would like to thank all applicants for their interest in this project. Only those applicants chosen for interviews will be contacted. We anticipate scheduling interviews in the weeks of February 20 and 27. Some positions may be funded by Summer Jobs Canada. Additional eligibility requirements may apply.

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On this Earth Day, you are likely to be reminded that wildlife globally is suffering. However, with work and dedication, it is possible to make a positive difference for even the most endangered species. If you follow us here, you are likely aware of the Vancouver Island marmot's story - from fewer than 30 wild marmots in 2003, to about 200 today.

Thank you to our donors and partners who are making the marmot's recovery possible. The marmots would not be here without you!

Enjoy this video, taken by the amazing Alena Ebeling-Schuld, of young Vancouver Island Marmots cautiously exploring the world outside their burrow.
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Possibly right now, the first marmots are beginning the long process of waking up in their hibernacula, becoming more and more restless as the snow above them begins to melt. Soon, they will begin to dig their way out through the dirt and snow, looking for food as their bodies recover from the rigors of hibernation.

For us, one of the great pleasures is seeing the first marmot of the year. Tracks, emergence holes, and telemetry provide us with much needed data, but there is still something special about the first time you lay eyes on a marmot. Will the first marmot we see in 2019 will the same marmot we spotted first last year?

Despite her name, Field Coordinator Mike Lester first spotted June late last April, on the Mount Washington Ski Hill. At 10 going on 11, June is one our older marmots. Born in the wild colony at Mount Washington, she has given birth to many pups over the years, though these days she is beginning to show her age. Her fur is a bit mangy, but we like to think it gives her extra character. June often hangs out by the “Hawk unload,” one of the ski lift drop off points on the hill. As such, while she may not realize it, June is among the most photographed and watched of all wild Vancouver Island marmots.

We are looking forward to seeing June and her extended family, but we hope we have to wait a few more weeks for the first marmots to appear above ground. The longer snow stays on the ground, the better. Melting snow provides water to the meadows throughout the summer and fall, and in turn that provides the marmots with green, nutritious vegetation to eat all season.

It is important to note that June, or whichever marmot we first observe, is probably not the first marmot out of hibernation. Most of the marmot colonies are not accessible in the early season due to avalanche hazard, and we are able access Mount Washington much earlier than nearly any other site. The first marmot observation of the season is special to us, but there are other early risers, bringing marmot whistles back to mountains for another summer. We can’t wait to see them too.
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