Author Archives: Adam Taylor

First look at our Winter’s Work

A quick glance at the Mt Washington Alpine Resort webcams confirms that snow has arrived on the mountains of Vancouver Island. Fortunately, all indications are that the marmots headed into their hibernacula for their long winter nap right on time. While that means that the marmots may be tucked away for the season, the humans at the Foundation still have plenty of work to do!

One of the first aspects of winter work that we want to highlight involves Mount Washington. We are thrilled to have marmots overwintering in the high elevation Tony Barrett Mt Washington Marmot Recovery Centre for the first time in several years. These marmots will be released next year, and having them at the Centre gives them a head start on acclimating to the conditions they will encounter on west coast mountains. Veterinarian Malcolm McAdie is caring for the marmots during the winter, and he’ll be giving them periodic health checkups and monitoring their hibernation cycles to make sure they are doing well.

Your support has made it possible for us to take this step – thank you so much for helping!

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!

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