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Updates from the Team

November’s Marmot of the Month: Lucky Lucy

November’s  Marmot of the Month is Lucky Lucy, who truly has lived up to her name. Lucky was born in the wild at Gemini Mountain in 2016.  For the past 2 years, she seemed to be doing great, and all indications were that soon there would be another breeding age female wild marmot.

Then, this year, Lucky’s story seemed to take a dark turn. Crew couldn’t see Lucky on their visit to Gemini, but her telemetry signal was weak and reading “slow”. At the time, we interpreted the signal to mean that she had died, though we noted that the signal was unusual. After that, nothing. We couldn’t find her signal at all.

That all changed in late August though, when on a trip to another colony nearby, the crew aimed the telemetry antenna across the valley, just to see if another angle would pick up Lucky’s signal. Against all odds, not only was her signal strong, but it was clearly “fast” – indicating she was alive and well! Since then, she’s been detected alive and well a couple more times, right where we left her on the top of Gemini Mountain.

Why did Lucky’s signal throw us for a loop? We will never know for sure, but rock walls can play havoc with telemetry signals bouncing them in odd ways. It is possible that Lucky ventured down off Gemini for a while, or perhaps she had dug a burrow under a particularly large rock.

Regardless, we feel fortunate to have her back! 

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Giving Thanks

Happy Thanksgiving to all our American friends! While we celebrated a little earlier here in Canada, it’s always worth taking the opportunity to express our thanks to the people who are making it possible to save the marmots. This species is here today thanks to you.

Our work to save the Vancouver Island Marmot has only been possible thanks to the gifts of donors and the support of partners. Our partners include the Calgary and Toronto Zoos, whose expertise, facilities, and research support have been critical. Landowners TimberWest, Island Timberlands, and Mount Washington Alpine Resort have provided funding, donated land, and created new parks to protect the marmot’s habitat. The Province of BC has provided operating support, office space, and field equipment like trucks to make our work possible.

And our donors’ gifts have provided the financial support to pay the bills, and hire the exceptional, dedicated crew we need to get these marmots back into their wild habitat.

Together, you are showing that Canadians and the World care about our most vulnerable species and that, with work and time, we can save them.

With all our heart, thank you.

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October’s Marmot of the Month: Buffy

“When Witches go riding and black cats are seen, the Moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween” – Author unknown.

Needing comfort from the restless dead haunting your dreams? Does your heart need lightening during the dark of All Hallows’ Eve? Then relief we bring, because Buffy is here!

Buffy may not appear to fit the standard mould of monster slayer, being somewhat smaller and furrier than her more famous TV namesake. Can this small and unassuming marmot be a secret monster masher?

Consider this: Buffy lives in the wild Mount Washington colony, where, coincidentally, there are the fewest predators of all our marmot colonies. Is it because of Buffy? Do cougars and wolves dare not tread these hills due to her furry presence? Perhaps … or perhaps there are other factor at play. All we can say for sure is that we rest easier on the mountain knowing Buffy hibernates somewhere nearby. 

At 7 years old, we hope Buffy has a few more years of keeping the forces of evil at bay before she passes the mantle on, perhaps to one of the pups she has nurtured along the way.

Photo by Jordan Cormack. Wooden stake added for … illustrative …. purposes only. 

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Canada Post Strike Update: We will get your donations!

We want to assure you that your mail will reach us, despite the current limited job action at Canada Post. As you may have heard, Canada Post has begun rotating strikes, including here on Vancouver Island. The job action may impact how long it takes your mail to reach us, and vice versa, but mail will still be delivered.

Alternatively, you can give to us online at https://marmots.org/how-you-can-help/donate-now/, or phone us at 250 390-0006 – we do love to chat with you about your marmots!

Your gifts are reason we are able to continue the marmots’ recovery. Thank you all so much for supporting this special animal and our work to save it. 

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Collaboration to map marmot genetics

More research! The Marmot Recovery Foundation is collaborating with Dr Jamie Gorrell of Vancouver Island University to map the genetics of as much of the captive and wild population as we can get samples from. When complete, this research will help us make more informed choices about which marmots to pair in the captive breeding program and where to release marmots. 

When our recovery effort began, the marmot population was frightening small. At its lowest point, fewer than 30 remained in the wild. With that severe population bottleneck in mind, the captive breeding program’s first priority has been to conserve genetic diversity and minimize inbreeding. But to do that, we have had to make assumptions. For instance, we assume that marmots from distant colonies are not closely related. In the wild, we assume that the male marmot that hibernates with the mother and engages in parenting duties is the father of the pups.

Dr Gorrell’s work will enable us to have a much closer look at the genetics of the marmots, and test whether our assumptions have always been right. If there are areas of concern, for instance a colony where all the marmots are more closely related than we believed (we’re looking you Alan, we know you get around, but just how much getting around have you been up to?), we can take corrective action. For instance, we could release marmots to the site, or even translocate marmots, to give a fresh infusion of needed genes.

We are really excited about Dr Gorrell’s work, and his results will help us better understand the marmots needs.

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Today, we released two marmots to the colony at Mount Washington. Ernest and Ezekiel were born at the Toronto Zoo, and today got their first taste of the wild.

They only have one year at Mount Washington however. Next year, we will move them to a more remote colony in Strathcona Park, where they will carry on the re-establishment of marmots in their historic range.
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Last year, we asked you for additional support so that we could start breeding marmots again at the Tony Barrett Mount Washington Marmot Recovery Centre. Thanks to everyone’s gifts, we made the decision re-open breeding at the Facility in the fall.

Today, we have wonderful news – the first pups born at the Centre! Sally and Pepsi are proud parents of 3 healthy and active pups. Vancouver Island marmots are slow breeders, and this is a full year ahead of when we expected to see our first pups. It is a wonderful surprise!

These pups will be released to the wild next year. They, and the future pups born at the Centre, will help us speed up the recovery the marmots’ wild population tremendously.

We owe a huge thank you to our donors and partners who have made this moment possible. We can’t thank you enough.

This is one of the pups peeking out from the rock structures in their outdoor pen.
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Right now, staff at the Tony Barrett Mount Washington Marmot Recovery Centre, the Toronto Zoo, and Calgary Zoo are listening for the sounds of pups. The pups stay in the burrow for a month or more, so right now listening is the only way for us to know who may have babies. We’re confident we’ve heard at a few pup noises, but only time will tell how many. In the wild, we won’t know anything until July, when the pups finally starting exploring the world outside their burrow. Until then, here’s some footage from last year to remind you what we’re waiting to see! ... See MoreSee Less

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