Author Archives: Adam Taylor

Will the last marmot awake please close the door and turn out the lights?

Our survey this week at Mt Washington showed most of the marmots are in hibernation. In fact, all but one: just Violet is still awake. We’re still waiting for her to plug her hibernaculum and settle down for her long winter’s nap. 

The timing this year is pretty typical, but we do hope to see Violet go into hibernation soon. Our team would like to see marmots tucked in safely within the next couple weeks, because as autumn progresses, vegetation dies back. With less food, marmots still awake may begin burning body fat just to stay active, and that could reduce the energy available for them when they emerge from hibernation in the spring. To be clear, having a few marmots still awake in late October is completely normal, and we are not concerned for Violet’s well-being. 

But, really, Violet, it is time for bed. Just go to sleep. Goodnight…

Newest mystery marmot highlights value of public reports

Please spread the word to report marmot sightings on Vancouver Island! Sometimes even routine reports can teach us something new.

For instance, in a set of wonderful photos taken at Mt Washington by Anne Chapin, she flagged one untagged marmot in particular. We’re glad she did, as while we monitor the Mt Washington colony carefully, this marmot had either moved to the colony late in the year, or managed to escape notice all summer! Now next spring, we have a mysterious marmot to learn more about.

Other reports this year have led to rescuing Vancouver Island marmots from unsuitable habitats and helping Yellow-bellied marmots return to their native range on the mainland.

Reports from the public help a great deal, and we encourage anyone to share their encounters and photos with us.

Many thanks to Anne for this photo of our newest mystery marmot!

With a lot of help from our Friends: Restoration at Mt Hooper

Last week, with more than a little help from our friends, we were able to restore a big section of marmot habitat at Mt Hooper. We need to thank Cam William-Johnston and Matt Kelly from the Port Alberni Thunderbirds Fire Fighting Unit, and Trudy Chatwin, retired Species-at-Risk biologist, for volunteering their time to work in this challenging terrain! Thank you also to TimberWest for facilitating the work, and Environment and Climate Change Canada for funding it! 

This crew was working to restore open sightlines by removing brush and low branches from the marmot’s habitat. Marmots rely on these open sightlines to spot and avoid predators, and this restoration work will help keep the delicate balance between predators and prey intact. 

The crew removed “stalking cover” – shrubs and low branches that predators such as wolves and cougars use to sneak up on marmots. This should happen naturally as avalanches sweep this material out the marmot colony, but extremely low snowpacks for several years have resulted in a lot less avalanche energy. In turn, we have seen an increase in the stalking cover. When we mapped where marmots were predated at Mt Hooper, it almost always occurred where this stalking cover had grow up.

From left to right, Norberto Pancera and Mike Lester (Marmot Recovery Foundation), Trudy Chatwin (biologist), and Cam William-Johnston and Matt Kelly (Port Alberni Thunderbirds). Not shown is Trevor Dickinson of the Foundation.

First hibernating marmots of 2017 confirmed

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!

Meet Macallan

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.

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Spot the Marmot! This is June, a 10 year old mom on Mount Washington. She's out today but just a few more weeks to hibernation. ... See MoreSee Less

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So you're out trying to catch an endangered marmot that is in a dangerous spot, and not only does he out-marmot you, but he gives you this look while while doing so.

"Joke's on you, little marmot, we'll catch you and your bundle of burrow insulation too!" we said on day 1.

Day 4 now, and we're trying "Please" and "We're only trying to help" and peanut butter.

Wish us luck, we need it!
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Reviewing remote camera footage, we spied these 3 pups playing earlier in August. The boulder they are on is a popular spot with marmots, and gives them a good lookout over the surrounding area. You get a sense of how steep typical marmot habitat is too! ... See MoreSee Less

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