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Updates from the Team

Owlkids give Herman a checkup

Owlkids sent their interpid reporter Ireland to visit the Toronto Zoo to give Herman the Vancouver Island Marmot a checkup. This was way back in 2014, but its too cute not to share!

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Work for the Marmot Recovery Foundation this summer!

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 for the endangered Vancouver Island Marmot.

Number of positions: 6 full-time, short-term positions.
Contract length: May 2 – August 31, 2016, 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 radiotelemetry 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.
  • Willingness to camp 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 start 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 of weather-based scheduling changes, candidates must be available to work each day within the contract period.

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The Force Awakens: Calgary celebrates Star Wars with Marmot Pups

“The Force Awakens”, but hopefully the Vancouver Island Marmots sleep through Christmas! Meet Luke & Leia, Han Solo (hopefully not “solo” for long – we need them Marmots breeding!), Jabba,& Yoda. These captive bred marmots are “A New Hope” for the species. At the Calgary Zoo, these Star Wars theme named pups will be part of the next generation of Vancouver Island Marmots released into the wild in 2016.

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Adam Taylor joining the Marmot Recovery Foundation

Adam Taylor is joining the Marmot Recovery Foundation as the incoming Executive Director. Over the next month he will be assuming Viki’s role, as she retires to new adventures! In a while, we’ll have some notes on Viki’s retirement, and all that she has accomplished on behalf of the Marmots. But first, an introduction from Adam:

“The story of the Vancouver Island Marmot is a remarkable one, and I am very excited to start playing a part in that story, albeit a small and backstage one.

While I am new to the Marmots, I do bring some experience in conservation and in protecting species at risk. For the past 8 years I was the Executive Director of Habitat Acquisition Trust, a local land trust that works to conserve natural areas and species in the Greater Victoria-area. For me, the opportunity to help the Marmot was too great to pass up. Vancouver Island Marmots are a special animal in ways, and their story gives me hope for the future of other endangered species struggling to hold on in a changing world.

The Marmot Recovery Foundation and our partners have done a remarkable job of bringing this uniquely Canadian species back from the very brink of extinction. Thanks to work of caring individuals and communities, the population of wild Vancouver Island Marmots has risen from a low of 27 in 2003 to around 300 today. In the times we live in, it is rare to hear of such success in recovering an endangered species, and heartening for all of us who care for our planet’s wildlife.

Adam TaylorHowever, conservation is never without challenges, and I know that we still have our work cut out for us. At 300 marmots, there are still fewer marmots in the wild today than there are Giant Pandas (1500 to 3000), Mountain Gorillas (about 800), or Siberian Tigers (about 500). The Marmot continues to keep company with the most the endangered animals on Earth. At same time, new threats are emerging to jeopardize Marmots. Climate change is occurring much faster in the Marmots’ alpine habitats than in the low-lands, and significant changes are already being observed. Lower snowpacks and warmer winters may make it harder for marmots to hibernate. As well, a rising tree-line brings deer and elk browsing for food, and with them come other predators, for whom a marmot might be an easy snack. There are political challenges too – government funding cuts, and shifting priorities.

Despite that, I remain optimistic. Extremely so, even. The reality is that it has taken a community to launch and sustain the rescue of the Vancouver Island Marmot. While I speak of the work of biologists, zoo keepers, and veterinarians, it is the support of donors who have made their work possible. Donations have been and continue to be the largest part of the funding that enable biologists like Cheyney Jackson and Mike Lester, and wildlife vets like Malcolm McAdie to do their work.

I am looking forward to meeting you, and working with you to ensure that Vancouver Island Marmots are part of our future.”

Adam Taylor
Vancouver Island, BC

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Bed time and season’s end

Well, it had to happen sometime – the 2015 Vancouver Island marmot field season has officially come to an end. We thought this would be the perfect time to review some of our activities and findings this past summer. It was a crazy ride!

Milestones:
Early emergence – The marmots at some colonies were up and about before we even thought to go looking for them! In most years, marmots emerge in May or June, but this year, marmots at one colony in the Nanaimo Lakes region were up and running (literally!) in the first week of April.

Releases – In June and July, we released 24 captive-bred marmots into the wild. Thirteen were released on Mt. Washington for pre-conditioning or for breeding purposes, and eleven were released directly into beautiful Strathcona Provincial Park.

Translocations – To give those eleven captive-bred marmots some experienced buddies to teach them how to live in the wild, we mixed them into groups with 4 pre-conditioned marmots (captive-bred but already had one year of wild experience) and 12 wild-born marmots. These marmot groups were released at seven locations in Strathcona Provincial Park.

Reproduction – We counted at least 35 pups in the Nanaimo Lakes region, 9 pups on Mt. Washington or in Forbidden Plateau, 4 pups in Western Strathcona, and 4 pups at one of our experimental colonies in Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park. That adds up to a grand total of 52 pups seen in the wild in 2015!

Dispersal – Every year, some teenage marmots decide to leave their natal colony to find and join a new colony where they can breed. This process is incredibly important for the health and persistence of wild marmot populations. We were excited to confirm at least 4 successful dispersals in Nanaimo Lakes, 6 in Forbidden Plateau, and 2 in Western Strathcona.

Early hibernation – After such a mild winter and spring, the marmots gained weight early and quickly this summer. By August 20, we found marmots preparing for the 2015-16 hibernation. Vancouver Island marmots are excellent hibernators, so for the marmots that survived to hibernation, there is a very good chance that we’ll see them again next year. In fact, we’re already looking forward to it!

Biggest surprise of 2015 – This award clearly goes to Alan, the Vancouver Island marmot that nearly became a Pacific Ocean marmot when he made his home at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre!

We hope that you enjoyed hearing about our recovery efforts this past season. Next year’s field season will start in May 2016, and if this year was any indication, there are sure to be all kinds of exciting discoveries. Until then, we wish you a warm and cozy hibernation!

 

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Beautiful photo Alena! It was a great pleasure to have you join us, and we very much looking forward to seeing more of your photos! ... See MoreSee Less

Sneak peek! I am so pleased to be able to share this photo with you all. Vancouver Island Marmots are endemic to only a few mountains on Vancouver Island (found nowhere else on earth!). 15 years ago,...

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Mixed news today. At Haley Ecological Reserve, we lost 4 marmots to a predator. 😓 We'll be examining the remains to learn what we can. We know that marmots are prey for a number of animals, and this is part of nature. Of course, it is hard to lose any marmots, but it has still been a good year for them overall.

That is in evidence at Mt Washington today, where researcher Megan Wilkins caught this pup peaking out at her. Thanks for brightening our day Megan!
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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 typical 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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