Another sure sign that autumn is upon us: we have confirmed our first hibernating pair of marmots. While most marmots are still active, we expect to see more and more of them headed underground in the next few weeks.
Our early birds are Clapton and Aberfeldy, who are now tucked into a new hibernaculum at Greig Ridge in Strathcona Park. Aberfeldy was released to Morrison Spire in 2015, but made the 4.5km trip to Greig Ridge the following year. In fact, she surprised us by showing up during our planning trip the day before we released Clapton!
Marmots of this age that hibernate together often have pups the following year, and we have our fingers crossed that these two raise a happy family!
We often talk about marmots who get lost and need help, but many marmots travel through their mountainous landscape and somehow manage to find another marmot colony. Macallan is one such marmot.
Born at Mount Washington in 2014, Macallan was moved as a yearling to Mount Albert Edward in Strathcona Park. Our plan was that he would help this young colony re-establish, but Macallan had other ideas. Instead, over the next year, he made his way back to Mt Washington. At first glance it may not seem like a remarkable trip: Mt Albert Edward is only 12 km from the colony on Mt Washington as the crow flies. But it would be impossible for anyone, or any marmot, to make the trip in a straight line through a the mountains, valleys, and lakes that separate the two colonies.
It is fortuitous that he returned. The Mt Washington colony needed another breeding aged male, and Macallan fits the bill perfectly. We know better than to move him again!
Jordan Cormack, Field Crew member and Marmot Keeper at Mt Washington, shared this photo of Macallan preparing for winter at his new, old home.
Melissa Hafting captured these wonderful photos of Eowyn at Mt Washington earlier this month.
Eowyn was named by Toronto Zoo staff after a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of Rings book. The character in the books is a fierce warrior, but we hope our marmot understands that discretion is the better part of valor. Marmots should “take on” predators with a brave whistle to warn the rest of the colony, followed by sensibly ducking into a nearby burrow, dug for just such an occasion.
Eowyn was released to Mt Washington on July 5th. She is just 1 year old, but hopefully in couple years she will have pups to share with us.
These marmots aren’t fighting, they are “pair-bonding.” While they push and pull, you can also see them touch noses throughout the video; a classic Vancouver Island marmot “love you boop”.
These marmots are on Flower Ridge in Strathcona Provincial Park. Marmots were extirpated from the Park by the 1990s, but with the funding from the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, and the support of donors like yourselves, we’ve been able to re-introduce the marmots back to a number of their historic colonies sites, including this one!
Their survival in the Park, and the wild, is still fragile, but if the romance continues between these two, perhaps we’ll see a population boosting litter of pups next spring!
The work of the Marmot Recovery Foundation is guided by the Recovery Plan for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in British Columbia. The Plan is prepared by the Recovery Team, a group of government, academic, private sector, and independent biologists and scientists who provide strategic guidance to recovery efforts.
For us at the Foundation, this Plan guides our work and goals. We encourage you to read it to find out more about the Vancouver Island Marmot, its habitat, and our work to recover this unique animal. Click on the image below, or go the Provincial List of Recovery Planning Documents, and look for “Vancouver Island Marmot”.