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!
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.
Melissa Hafting captured these wonderful photos of Eowyn at Mt Washington earlier this month.
Eowyn was named by Toronto Zoo staff after a character in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of Rings book. The character in the books is a fierce warrior, but we hope our marmot understands that discretion is the better part of valor. Marmots should “take on” predators with a brave whistle to warn the rest of the colony, followed by sensibly ducking into a nearby burrow, dug for just such an occasion.
Eowyn was released to Mt Washington on July 5th. She is just 1 year old, but hopefully in couple years she will have pups to share with us.
These marmots aren’t fighting, they are “pair-bonding.” While they push and pull, you can also see them touch noses throughout the video; a classic Vancouver Island marmot “love you boop”.
These marmots are on Flower Ridge in Strathcona Provincial Park. Marmots were extirpated from the Park by the 1990s, but with the funding from the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, and the support of donors like yourselves, we’ve been able to re-introduce the marmots back to a number of their historic colonies sites, including this one!
Their survival in the Park, and the wild, is still fragile, but if the romance continues between these two, perhaps we’ll see a population boosting litter of pups next spring!
The work of the Marmot Recovery Foundation is guided by the Recovery Plan for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in British Columbia. The Plan is prepared by the Recovery Team, a group of government, academic, private sector, and independent biologists and scientists who provide strategic guidance to recovery efforts.
For us at the Foundation, this Plan guides our work and goals. We encourage you to read it to find out more about the Vancouver Island Marmot, its habitat, and our work to recover this unique animal. Click on the image below, or go the Provincial List of Recovery Planning Documents, and look for “Vancouver Island Marmot”.
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. ... See MoreSee Less
We are very honored that research into how to maximize the success of released marmots has been selected as a Feature Paper by the Journal “Animal Conservation.” If you want a deeper look into the science side of our work, this paper and the accompanying expert commentaries are great way to explore some of the challenges and successes of reintroducing a critically endangered species back into the wild.
One of our central challenges is giving the marmots we release the best chance of survival possible. Unfortunately, there is no road map for this; no “tried and true” methodology for re-establishing a wild population that has been lost. As we experienced re-introduction successes and disappointments, it became clear that some colonies are much more ‘captive-born marmot friendly’ than others. Chief among these ‘friendly’ colonies is Mount Washington.
We thought it might be possible to use Mount Washington as a ‘stepping stone’ for captive-bred marmots. Would a year in the wild Mount Washington colony help naïve captive-bred marmots learn how to survive at the harsher, less forgiving colonies. To answer this question, we needed help. We’re good at the grunt work – releasing marmots, tracking them, capturing them, and moving them. But we needed help, a lot of help, to model population and survival dynamics over multiple cohorts of marmots with differing levels of wild experience. Fortunately, the Calgary Zoo’s Centre for Conservation Research and the US Geological Service were willing to contribute a significant amount of brain power to make sense of the data we collected.
The result? We now know that the stepping stone model dramatically improves the survival rate of released captive-bred marmots. The earliest analyses came in a couple years ago, and at that point we adopted the stepping stone model for all marmots being released to Strathcona Provincial Park.
Many thanks to our partners at the Calgary Zoo’s Centre for Conservation Research, and the U.S. Geological Service for their invaluable work. This would not have been possible without the people and funders who make our work possible. This work in particular was funded by the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, the Province of B.C., and donors like you.
We hope that in addition to guiding our efforts, this research will help other re-introduction programs make sound decisions about how to best assist small and fragile populations of some of world’s most endangered species. ... See MoreSee Less
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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. ... See MoreSee Less