Author Archives: Adam Taylor

Marmot Love is in the … Burrow?

What the Vancouver Island Marmot needs is more marmots, and for that we need to encourage marmot romance! But what are the ingredients for a successful marmot entanglement? To be honest, we do not know everything that goes into making a marmot couple, but we are aware of a few trends:

Marmot who sleep together stay together: Marmots who hibernate together often produce litters the following spring. This is why we often highlight these hopeful pairs in the fall; they are a great bet to have pups soon. It’s not a sure bet though.

The way to a marmot’s heart is through its stomach: Feeding a litter of 3 to 5 hungry baby marmots takes a lot from a mother marmot’s body. As does seven months of hibernation.  Female marmots need to be in peak physical condition if they are to have pups, so we look for marmots that have great body condition. Speaking of which…

Every marmot needs a break: The demands of babies and hibernation is too much for a marmot’s body to sustain every year. Most females take a year break between litters for their bodies to recover. We do not expect a female who had pups last year to have pups again this year.

Dad’s on the clock: Male Vancouver Island marmots often play an important role in raising their litter, including watching them while mom is out feeding – something she needs to do a lot of!

Keep it outside the family: With such a small population, inbreeding is a serious concern. Through strategic releases, we strive to make sure that marmots have unrelated, eligible partners to choose from.

Always full of surprises: Despite our best-laid plans, the marmots keep us on our toes. New marmots move into colonies, or out, when we least expect it. Marmots partners we were sure were set break up when a new mate suddenly appears. There is lots for us learn about marmot love!

Have an old tripod?

Do you have an old or faulty tripod that deserves a second chance at usefulness? The Marmot Recovery Foundation is looking for donations of up to 18 well-loved tripods to support wildlife cameras used to monitor marmots in very remote locations. As long as the tripod can stand securely, condition does not matter.

Requirements: 3 sound legs and stable when standing. The condition of the head unit does not matter (the camera will be strapped to the tripod).

How to donate:

Drop-off Locations: We have two locations where you can drop off tripods, at our field office in the BC government building in Nanaimo, and at Habitat Acquisition Trust in Victoria.

Nanaimo: 2080A Labieux Rd, Attn: Marmot Recovery project / Sean Pendergast

Victoria: Habitat Acquisition Trust, 825 Broughton St, Victoria (on the Mezzanine level) Attn: Marmot Recovery Foundation.

If you are in another part of BC, and are looking for a drop off location, please let us know! For the rest Canada, mail is always an option! Mail tripods to our regular address at :

Marmot Recovery Foundation
PO Box 2332 Stn A
Nanaimo, BC
V9R 6X9

Groundhog Day 2018: Meet “Van Island Violet”

Groundhog Day is fast approaching, and many of us are waiting with baited breath for the marmots’ prognostication for spring. Is the Vancouver Island Marmot as skilled and knowledgeable predictor of future weather patterns as the better-known Groundhogs out east?

Answering this question poses some challenges. Our favorite marmot weather vane is “Van Island Violet”, a resident of the slopes of Mount Washington. However, as it turns out, on February 2nd Violet will be doing what she does every year at this time: hibernating under several meters of snow and rock.

Undaunted, and after years of research by dedicated staff at the Marmot Recovery Foundation, we have reached the following, wholly remarkable conclusion: a sleeping marmot is unlikely to see its shadow. Therefore, pending confirmation on Friday, an early spring is likely in the works.

Careful analysis of historic trends confirms that Vancouver Island’s spring is indeed significantly earlier than the rest of Canada’s. To our minds, this corroborates the Vancouver Island Marmot’s prognostication skill and our interpretation of their somnolent pronouncements, though the forecasts have not always been 100% accurate.

There are four species of marmots in Canada, including the best-known weather predicting marmot, the Groundhog (Marmota monax), and the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis). Only the Vancouver Island Marmot is considered at risk in Canada.

Now hiring Summer Field Crew!

The Marmot Recovery Foundation is seeking summer wildlife technicians. We are looking for enthusiastic, hard-working individuals that have a passion for wildlife conservation, love to work outdoors, and want to contribute to the success of our exciting recovery program.

Number of positions: 1-5 full-time, short-term positions.
Contract length: May 1 – August 31, 2018, with some possibility of extension through September. Contract structure: Fixed-term employment contract, starting at $2,780/month. Project base: Nanaimo, Vancouver Island.

Main tasks and responsibilities include:
• Hiking for several hours a day on steep, rugged, mountainous terrain with a 30-40lb backpack.
• Precise and consistent collection of inventory, survival, and reproduction data based on radiotelemetry detections and visual observations.
• Accurate and timely data entry.
• Live-trapping and care of Vancouver Island marmots under the direction of the project veterinarian.
• Driving 4×4 trucks on active logging roads, and occasional use of ATVs and/or snowmobiles.
• Camping on trips of up to 10 days in length (sites often accessible only by helicopter).

This project is based in central Nanaimo. Meeting times can be as early as 4am and field days can be very long. In the past, we have hired exceptional individuals that lived outside of Nanaimo; however, all candidates MUST expect to drive to Nanaimo for the start of each field day. No reimbursement for personal fuel or mileage will be offered. Due to the short length of the field season and the high likelihood that weather will change work plans and scheduled days off, candidates must be available for work throughout the contract period.

Successful candidates will possess:
• A Class 5 Drivers License (or equivalent).
• First Aid – minimum OFA Level 1.
• A high level of physical fitness and stamina.
• Experience with overnight hiking and camping trips.
• Experience driving 4×4 and all-terrain vehicles in steep, mountainous terrain.
• A detail-oriented mindset, and the ability to remember and follow specific directions regarding data collection protocols and animal care.
• A commitment to adhere to safety protocols and contribute to safe operating practices.
• Strong communication skills, a positive attitude, and the ability to contribute to a fun and supportive team environment.
• Experience working around and caring for animals would be an asset.

To apply, please send a cover letter, resume, and the names and contact information for three references to the Field Coordinator, Cheyney Jackson, at: resumes@marmots.org.  

Applications must be received by 4pm Monday, February 12. Only those applicants chosen for interviews will be contacted. We anticipate scheduling interviews in the week of February 26. Some positions may be funded by Summer Jobs Canada. Additional eligibility requirements may apply.

Hope after Tyrion discovered at Flower Ridge

One of our winter tasks is to review footage captured by our wildlife cameras. While doing so, we came across a batch of 190 videos made by Tyrion at Flower Ridge. Tyrion’s story is wonderful – perfect for a dark December night.

As you might recall, the winter of 2015-16 was dark indeed for marmots. Many marmots, especially in Strathcona Park, didn’t survive until the spring. Among the colonies hardest hit was Flower Ridge. In the early spring of 2016, we worried that the colony may have been wiped out.

Meanwhile, we also believed Tyrion had died. He was released to the Henshaw colony in the summer of 2015, but he quickly disappeared, and we feared the worst. So we were surprised during those early 2016 surveys to pick up Tyrion’s signal, indicated that he was alive and active! Only not at Henshaw, but some 7 km away at Flower Ridge. Upon investigating at Flower Ridge, we had another wonderful surprise – signs of other marmots! There were two emergence holes – a sure sign that multiple marmots had made it through the winter.

This year, Tyrion and an unknown female have been very active at Flower Ridge. They’ve left us lots of evidence by digging and padding their burrows as well as wrestling and playing, kindly doing all this in clear view of cameras. We were able to follow Tyrion to hibernation, with his mystery partner, still on Flower Ridge. Next spring, we’re hoping for a litter of pups, and whistles of more marmots in the meadow.

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On this Earth Day, you are likely to be reminded that wildlife globally is suffering. However, with work and dedication, it is possible to make a positive difference for even the most endangered species. If you follow us here, you are likely aware of the Vancouver Island marmot's story - from fewer than 30 wild marmots in 2003, to about 200 today.

Thank you to our donors and partners who are making the marmot's recovery possible. The marmots would not be here without you!

Enjoy this video, taken by the amazing Alena Ebeling-Schuld, of young Vancouver Island Marmots cautiously exploring the world outside their burrow.
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Possibly right now, the first marmots are beginning the long process of waking up in their hibernacula, becoming more and more restless as the snow above them begins to melt. Soon, they will begin to dig their way out through the dirt and snow, looking for food as their bodies recover from the rigors of hibernation.

For us, one of the great pleasures is seeing the first marmot of the year. Tracks, emergence holes, and telemetry provide us with much needed data, but there is still something special about the first time you lay eyes on a marmot. Will the first marmot we see in 2019 will the same marmot we spotted first last year?

Despite her name, Field Coordinator Mike Lester first spotted June late last April, on the Mount Washington Ski Hill. At 10 going on 11, June is one our older marmots. Born in the wild colony at Mount Washington, she has given birth to many pups over the years, though these days she is beginning to show her age. Her fur is a bit mangy, but we like to think it gives her extra character. June often hangs out by the “Hawk unload,” one of the ski lift drop off points on the hill. As such, while she may not realize it, June is among the most photographed and watched of all wild Vancouver Island marmots.

We are looking forward to seeing June and her extended family, but we hope we have to wait a few more weeks for the first marmots to appear above ground. The longer snow stays on the ground, the better. Melting snow provides water to the meadows throughout the summer and fall, and in turn that provides the marmots with green, nutritious vegetation to eat all season.

It is important to note that June, or whichever marmot we first observe, is probably not the first marmot out of hibernation. Most of the marmot colonies are not accessible in the early season due to avalanche hazard, and we are able access Mount Washington much earlier than nearly any other site. The first marmot observation of the season is special to us, but there are other early risers, bringing marmot whistles back to mountains for another summer. We can’t wait to see them too.
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