Author Archives: Adam Taylor

September Marmot of the Month – Meet Nicola

Meet Nicola, September’s Marmot of the Month. At 12 years old, Nicola is the eldest known wild Vancouver Island Marmot. She is now blind in one eye, and the other is becoming occluded by a cataract. Her coat shows the wear and tear of the years. Yet, amazingly, not only is she still alive, but producing pups. This year she had another litter at Mount Washington, making her truly a mother of marmots.

To those who work with her, Nicola is known as a laid-back troublemaker. She is known to wander down off the slopes of her Mount Washington home into the village area in search of… something, we aren’t sure what. However, she is so fond of peanut butter that catching her is never a problem, and the hike back up the hill does not seem to stress her at all.

Nicola is setting new records for wild marmots, and has played an important part in the early recovery of her species. We hope that she continues to do so for a few more years yet.

In the photo below, you can see Nicola’s blind, white eye if you look closely.

A Field Day at Haley Lake Ecological Reserve

A field day at Haley Lake Ecological Reserve in late August had a little something of everything: rain, sun, good news and sad, and lots of surprises.

Good news first, then the photos! One of our goals for the day to find a deceased marmot, Lucky Lucy.  Earlier this year, we detected Lucy with an odd signal, and we were pretty confident she had died though we were not able find her body. We could not be happier to be wrong! Lucky Lucy was detected alive a nearby mountain! We were only able to detect her from a distance, so we don’t know what caused the odd signal, and with winter approaching it may be sometime before we are able to learn anything more.

Earlier morning weather was a little wet, and when we first arrived, none of the marmots were not interested in venturing outside their burrows. However, even when the marmots are hiding, Haley Bowl is a beautiful spot.

Using telemetry, we were able to confirm that most of Haley’s resident marmots were still on site, even if they were staying dry underground. A few odd-balls, like Alan and Anik, required a some hiking to track down.


Sadly, telemetry also indicated Myrtle had died. We located her remains in a copse of woods, buried under a thin layer of branches and twigs. The evidence suggests that she was predated on by a cougar. Michael Boudreau collected her remains for further examination by veterinarians.

On our way out we made one last stop at the main meadow, and the marmots were waiting for us! Three marmots, including Alan, Muffin, and Towhee (pictured here) were sunning themselves now that the skies had cleared. Alan, always the traveler, had either made the trip between Bell Creek and Haley Bowl during the day, or had managed to fool us with his location. He does seem to be spending a lot of time near Towhee – perhaps he will finally settle down?

Mount Arrowsmith surprise

A welcome surprise for our recovery effort is the discovery of a thriving colony at Mount Arrowsmith. While we knew there were a few marmots in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Reserve, we had only ever observed one emergence hole. This signaled to us that likely the colony was small. We were surprised in early 2018 when hikers began reporting marmots on Mount Arrowsmith, and even more surprised when we counted 12 pups and 6 adults spread across three locations on the mountain! We prioritized getting some marmots tagged so that we could start keeping better track of this successful colony. 

This is just one of the curious pups that greeted our field crew. We do not tag pups, but the adults, wisely, are more cautious. 

A couple of the young pups, just outside their burrow.  This burrow itself is hidden in the grass, but not all of the marmots’ hidey-holes are so difficult to spot. The Field Crew usually look for a “front porch” of rock and soil made by the marmots when they dig their burrow. This pair have an extra well-hidden burrow – if only they would use it!

Green Mountain Marmot Release

On Friday, July 13th we released 10 marmots to 5 mountains in the Nanaimo Lakes area. Despite superstitious date, the releases went well, and thanks you some help form our friends, these marmots have successfully begun the first step of their transition to the wild.  Below are photos and stories from Green Mountain, the first to receive its marmots on this morning.

Green Mountain Wildlife Management Area is set aside specifically for Vancouver Island Marmots, and has been home to a small colony of marmots for over decade. Last year, a predator caught most of the colony, leaving only a single male marmot, Parker, on the mountain. To prevent the colony from becoming extinct, we had prioritized it for releases this year.

To support the work and keep costs down, the field team is divided into groups. Field Coordinator Mike Lester and veterinarian Malcolm McAdie ride in the helicopter with all the marmots. The rest of the Field Team hike up release mountains in the morning to meet the helicopter. This keeps costs down, as the helicopter is most expensive part of this day.

At Green Mountain, veteran team member Norberto Pancera leads the group. The “Green Team” also includes MRF’s Executive Director Adam Taylor, and two employees of the Calgary Zoo, Kelly and Llewellyn. Kelly and Llewellyn’s help mean we’re able to get to more mountains today. Our goal: to get all the marmots released before the day gets too hot. Other field teams on other mountains today include Megan and Jordan at Mt Washington and Michael and Clemens at Haley Bowl.

The “Green” team left Nanaimo at 5:30 am, to allow enough time to hike up the mountain and meet helicopter at 8:00 am. Read through the photos to find out how the rest the release went, and meet Denman and Bligh, the newest residents of Green Mountain

After the steep hike in, the first order of business is tracking down Parker. We don’t want to release the marmots right on top of him! At the same time, the team is scouting for a good burrow to release Bligh and Denman too. A great burrow is located within a short hike of the helicopter landing spot.

The terrain at Green Mountain is rocky, steep, and covered in lush layer of ferns, grasses, and wildflowers – perfect for marmots. Malcolm and Mike are a little later than planned. That’s alright, the hike in took us a little longer than planned too!

The foundations of an old ski hut make the perfect landing spot. Norberto waits nearby to receive the marmots. The Helicopter only touches down for moments. Mike and Malcolm unload Bligh and Denman. The hand off takes less than 5 minutes, and then the helicopter is off again.

Now its up to the field team. Fortunately, we don’t have far to go today. Kelly carries Bligh to the burrow selected earlier. The marmots are stressed. Everything is new to them – the helicopter, the people, and the open mountain. We’ll try to keep them in the burrow for a few minutes to show them its a safe spot.

While Bligh stays inside the burrow, Denman bolts. He manages to leap past all of us. Fortunately, he does not go far. 
Plan B: Denman has picked a spot about 50 meters downhill. Perhaps a peanut butter trail will lead him back to the burrow?
Meanwhile, Bligh starts to explore! She’s been eating the peanut butter and leaf biscuits already, and seems to be adjusting rapidly to life in the wild.

Denman is still stressed. The crew back off to give him time and space. Before leaving, we confirm that he has made his way back to the rock just above the burrow. Still, we need to come back soon to make sure he is adapting to his world.

All in all, a success. Together, Parker, Bligh, and Denman will hopefully keep the colony at Green Mountain alive.

First Release of 2018

Today we released the first 3 marmots of the season. Stuart, Flores, and Sidney joined the colony at Mount Washington Alpine Resort with seeming enthusiasm.

Born in captivity at the The Calgary Zoo, this the first time these marmots have experienced the wild, and the speed with which they made that transition was impressive. Within moments the marmots were exploring the world around their new home, and sampling the local vegetation.

There are still more marmots from the The Toronto Zoo to be released, but it is great to see the first ones out adapting so quickly after their release!


Field Crew Norberto and Jordan help veterinarian Malcolm get the marmots into their new home. Its a new and frightening experience for the marmots, and they don’t always want to go. Malcolm and Norberto position the trap and encourage the marmot to go into the nest box by tickling its feet.

The marmots today were poking their heads out immediately. These are two of Flores, Sidney, and Stuart.

Within a couple minutes, the first marmot is out! This is quick, often the marmots will spend 5 to 15 minutes in the familiar nest box before emerging.

Looks like this marmot has already picked out her/his favorite lookout rock.

Time to explore, and coax the others out of the nestbox! As tempting as it is to stay, we need to let them be for bit. They are in the middle of the Mount Washington colony, and should be safe to explore their new environment.

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October’s Marmot of the Month: Buffy!

“When Witches go riding and black cats are seen, the Moon laughs and whispers, ‘tis near Halloween” – Author unknown.

Needing comfort from the restless dead haunting your dreams? Does your heart need lightening during the dark of All Hallows’ Eve? Then relief we bring, because Buffy is here!

Buffy may not appear to fit the standard mould of monster slayer, being somewhat smaller and furrier than her more famous TV namesake. Can this small and unassuming marmot be a secret monster masher?

Consider this: Buffy lives in the wild Mount Washington colony, where, coincidentally, there are the fewest predators of all our marmot colonies. Is it because of Buffy? Do cougars and wolves dare not tread these hills due to her furry presence? Perhaps … or perhaps there are other factor at play. All we can say for sure is that we rest easier on the mountain knowing Buffy hibernates somewhere nearby.

At 7 years old, we hope Buffy has a few more years of keeping the forces of evil at bay before she passes the mantle on, perhaps to one of the pups she has nurtured along the way.

Photo by Jordan Cormack. Wooden stake added for ... illustrative ... purposes.
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Canada Post Strike Update: We will get your donations!
We want to assure you that your mail will reach us, despite the current limited job action at Canada Post. As you may have heard, Canada Post has begun rotating strikes, including here on Vancouver Island. The job action may impact how long it takes your mail to reach us, and vice versa, but mail will still be delivered.

Alternatively, you can give to us online at marmots.org/how-you-can-help/donate-now/, or phone us at 250 390-0006 or 1-877-462-7668 - we do love to chat with you about your marmots!

Your gifts are reason we are able to continue the marmots’ recovery. Thank you all so much for supporting this special animal and our work to save it.
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