We use this picture a lot. It is a beautiful photo by Oli Gardner of a mom and pup pair bonding in typical Vancouver Island Marmot style by touching noses. But the photograph takes on more meaning when you understand the story of the marmots captured in it too.
The marmot mom on the right is Haida, the first captive-bred female to wean pups successfully in the wild. On the left is one of those pups.
Haida was born at the Mountain View Conservation Centre in 2002. Two years later, she was among the very first marmots released. At the time, we did not have much experience breeding marmots, and Haida was in the just second group of marmots ever to be released. In her case, her new wild home was Haley Lake Ecological Reserve, a park reserve created specifically to protect prime marmot habitat.
We have learned a lot since those first releases: the best age, time of year for the release, and how to minimize the marmot’s stress. Looking back, there are things we would do differently now. Despite these challenges and needing to learn to survive in the wild for the first time, Haida thrived in her new home.
She produced her first litter in 2006, and one of those pups is what you are looking at here. It is just possible the pictured pup is another remarkable marmot, Muffin. Muffin still lives at Haley Lake; now 12 years old herself. Currently she is hibernating with Alan, and we are hoping that the pair produce a litter of pups in the summer. If they do, it will add another chapter to Haida’s considerable legacy.
In 2014, when Haida was at the advanced age of 12, veterinarian Malcolm McAdie recalls Haida would still get into mischief. “She would she would sit and wait while we baited the traps with peanut butter and then get caught repeatedly,” he says.
Haida passed away a few years ago, but her contribution to the recovery of her species lives on.