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Updates from the Team

Alan is on the move again!

Our wandering Vancouver Island marmot is on the move again. Alan was found at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre in 2015. For the record, Bamfield is a long way from our marmot’s typically mountain habitat. With the help of staff and students, we successfully relocated Alan to a nice colony on Green Mountain.


Alan, however, had other ideas. Over the past 2 summers, he has taken quite the tour of the Nanaimo Lakes marmot colonies, and led our staff on a merry chase. He fooled us again this summer. We were sure he had *finally* settled down. But no. He is on the move again! At least he is staying in typical marmot habitat, which is great.


Keep being you Alan, just stay safe out there. One day you’ll find that perfect marmot and settle down. Please?

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Marmots Returning to Strathcona Park

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. 

Photo by Adam Taylor

Cheyney Jackson checks-in from Strathcona Park. Photo by Adam Taylor

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.

Photo by Trevor Dickinson

Photo by Trevor Dickinson

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.

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Marmot Recovery Foundation mourns death of Jim Walker

It is with great sadness that we announce that Jim Walker, our Board Chair, passed away unexpectedly on June 20th, 2017. Jim was a tireless advocate for nature, having held many senior government position, including the Assistant Deputy Minister in charge of Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Protection, and Director of Wildlife. After his retirement, Jim continued to volunteer his time and expertise as a Board Member of the Marmot Recovery Foundation and the Nature Trust of BC.

Jim has been the Foundation’s Board Chair since 2006, and we will miss his steady leadership and gentle guidance. Jim had a special place in his heart for the marmots, and spent countless hours volunteering in the recovery effort.

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Good Overwinter Survival for marmots

While it is still early in the year for marmots, our survey results so far have been positive.  Overwinter survival for the marmots has been high, particularly among breeding aged females. This is exactly what we hope to find at this time of year.  Later in the summer when pups start to emerge, we will be looking for signs of reproduction – that is to say active pups. We have feeders out at a number of colonies, which we believe may help the marmots reproduce more frequently.  Our fingers are crossed that lots of those breeding-aged females have litters!

Many people have been asking about the weather. Vancouver Island has had a particular cold and wet spring, which followed a cold winter! However, it does not seem to have had any negative impact on the marmots. In fact, weather station data suggests that after a few mild alpine springs, this year’s alpine weather was closer to the historic norm.

While there is a lot of work ahead of us this year, this is good news for the start of the season!

 

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Marmots emerging from hibernation

Vancouver Island marmots are emerging from their winter hibernation. As often happens, some marmots emerge earlier than others, and many wake up briefly only to return to torpor for some time. Weather conditions in Vancouver Island’s alpine are within normal ranges for this time of year – that includes a fair amount of snow covering the ground.

Marmots are herbivores, with a wide ranging diet of leaves, grasses, shrubs, and even tree bark, and they are able to find food even with snow covering the ground. However, at several colonies, our field crews have set up feeders to provide the marmots with supplementary food. This extra, high quality food may help breeding age females improve their body condition quickly – and perhaps reproduce more often than normally would. 

Waking up from hibernation is an important and challenging time for the Vancouver Island marmot.  Their long winter sleep takes a toll on their bodies, and to recover from hibernation takes even more energy. The BBC produced an excellent segment on this challenge for their show ‘Animals: The Inside Story’

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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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2 weeks ago

Marmot Recovery Foundation

This is the BEST CHRISTMAS SWEATER EVER!!!! We thought Christmas sweaters were supposed to bad though? ... See MoreSee Less

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3 weeks ago

Marmot Recovery Foundation

#HappyThanksgiving 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 Zoo and The Toronto Zoo, whose expertise, facilities, and research support have been critical. Landowners TimberWest Forest Corp., #IslandTimberlands, 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.

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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