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Updates from the Team

First pups of the year spotted

UPDATE: Jordan sent these photos in of the pups! Original story below.

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And one more …

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Just in time for Canada Day, Jordan, a member of the Field Crew, spotted the first new-born pups of the year! The Crew hadn’t been able to locate Mystic this spring until Jordan spotted her with her 5 pups on June 28th.

Mystic has been all-star for the recovery of her species. Last year she had 6 pups, and now 5 again this year. For comparison, most Vancouver Island Marmots have 3 or 4 pups every other year.

Jordan took photos, and we’ll be sure to post them once she’s back from the Mountains. In meantime we’ll keep our fingers crossed that more pups are spotted as they start to emerge from their burrows in the summer!

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Wild born marmots get names

While we and the media have been focused on the sad news from the Strathcona area recently, we also have good news to share. The field crew has been busy with yearlings on Mt Washington. These wild marmots were born last year, and there is a healthy crop of them at Mt Washington!

We give them each a name selected from our “Name-a-Pup” contest. Here are the names handed out so far this year:
– Kirby, male
– Mildred, female
– Rex, male
– Tracker, male
– Shiloh, female
– Roy, male
– Willellen, female
– Daisy, female

You can enter the “Name-a-Pup” contest by adopting a marmot. Your gifts from the Adopt-a-Marmot program enable us to do the recovery work the marmots need. Thank you!

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Poor overwinter survival in Strathcona troubling

Sadly, this winter many marmots in the Strathcona region did not survive to the spring. We have lost 36 marmots, a significant percent of the population in the Strathcona region. As well, there are a number of marmots we have not been able to locate yet, and we do not know their fate.
 
We also do not yet know why there was such poor survival this winter in this one region, but we are working hard to find out. One possibility is that the summer drought last year reduced the fall foliage that marmots rely on before going into hibernation. Hopefully we will learn more in the weeks ahead.
 
While we are deeply saddened by this discovery, there is good news as well. In the Nanaimo Lakes region and at Mt Washington, marmots did quite well overwinter, which is a great relief.
 
Plus, due to monitoring efforts, we know about this decline. That gives us the opportunity to learn and respond.
 
Finally, while troubling, these deaths will not push the Vancouver Island Marmot to the brink of extinction. They are a stark reminder of work still ahead of us, and how fragile the marmots’ place in the wild remains, but it also reminds us of how far we have come over the past 13 years. 
 
Now we go work to learn what we can, and continue towards our goal of a secure place in the wild for our marmots. Despite this setback, the only reason that marmots have not become extinct is because of our generous donors.  Thank you so much for caring for this beautiful creature.  Your gifts help everyday as we rebuild the populations
Adam Taylor, Executive Director

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Marmot on “Marmot-y” Peak

Marmot in “Marmot-y area”
 
Over the last few years, crew members have often looked at a nameless mountain bowl between two known marmot colonies and thought it would be a great spot marmots. But until today, we’d never seen any there. 
 
Andrew and Marina were hiking between the colonies when they spotted a marmot in what Marina has dubbed “Mercedes Mountain” (the peak looks like the Mercedes logo when viewed from Google Earth).
 
Our mystery marmot has ear tags, so perhaps we’ll be able to figure who it is that has finally moved into this spot. Hopefully it’s as good a home as we think it is!
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Photo by Andrew Horsfield

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An Interview with Cheyney Jackson

As part of filming “The Perfect State”, Mike McKinlay interviewed Cheyney on the mountains observing Vancouver Island Marmots.  The result is beautiful and moving.

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Marmot Love is in the … Burrow?

What the Vancouver Island Marmot needs is more marmots, and for that we need to encourage marmot romance! But what are the ingredients for a successful marmot entanglement? To be honest, we do not know everything that goes into making a marmot couple, but we are aware of a few trends:

Marmot who sleep together stay together: Marmots who hibernate together often produce litters the following spring. This is why we often highlight these hopeful pairs in the fall; they are a great bet to have pups soon. It’s not a sure bet though.

The way to a marmot’s heart is through its stomach: Feeding a litter of 3 to 5 hungry baby marmots takes a lot from a mother marmot’s body. As does seven months of hibernation. Female marmots need to be in peak physical condition if they are to have pups, so we look for marmots that have great body condition. Speaking of which…

Every marmot needs a break: The demands of babies and hibernation is too much for a marmot’s body to sustain every year. Most females take a year break between litters for their bodies to recover. We do not expect a female who had pups last year to have pups again this year.

Dad’s on the clock: Male Vancouver Island marmots often play an important role in raising their litter, including watching them while mom is out feeding – something she needs to do a lot of!

Keep it outside the family: With such a small population, inbreeding is a serious concern. Through strategic releases, we strive to make sure that marmots have unrelated, eligible partners to choose from.

Always full of surprises: Despite our best-laid plans, the marmots keep us on our toes. New marmots move into colonies, or out, when we least expect it. Marmots partners we were sure were set break up when a new mate suddenly appears. There is lots for us learn about marmot love!
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