Author Archives: Adam Taylor

Alan is on the move again!

Our wandering Vancouver Island marmot is on the move again. Alan was found at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre in 2015. For the record, Bamfield is a long way from our marmot’s typically mountain habitat. With the help of staff and students, we successfully relocated Alan to a nice colony on Green Mountain.


Alan, however, had other ideas. Over the past 2 summers, he has taken quite the tour of the Nanaimo Lakes marmot colonies, and led our staff on a merry chase. He fooled us again this summer. We were sure he had *finally* settled down. But no. He is on the move again! At least he is staying in typical marmot habitat, which is great.


Keep being you Alan, just stay safe out there. One day you’ll find that perfect marmot and settle down. Please?

Marmots Returning to Strathcona Park

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to join our Field Coordinator, Cheyney Jackson, on a trip to a number of Vancouver Island marmot colonies in Strathcona Provincial Park.  It was a remarkable experience for me to visit this incredibly beautiful Park. Wildflower meadows, glacial blue lakes, limestone cliffs, and snow-topped mountains define a landscape occupied by an abundance of wildlife. 

Photo by Adam Taylor

Cheyney Jackson checks-in from Strathcona Park. Photo by Adam Taylor

We were there to collect data from remote cameras we use to monitor hibernaculums, and hopefully see a few marmots along the way. In particular, we were hoping to see pups, and we were not disappointed.

Until recently, marmots had been completely extirpated from Strathcona Park. Why marmots in the Park disappeared is not entirely clear. Perhaps with new roads in and around the Park, predators found it easier to get into the high elevation meadows where marmots live. Possibly the construction of the Strathcona Dam, which greatly changed Upper Campbell and Buttle Lakes, made it more difficult for marmots to find each other’s’ colonies, which would have made them more vulnerable to many threats.

Photo by Trevor Dickinson

Photo by Trevor Dickinson

With funding from the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Program, the Recovery project began the long process of re-introducing marmots to the Park in 2008. Since then the marmots we have released have established small colonies around Buttle Lake. The population is not yet stable, and there have been challenges, and setbacks along the way.

There are encouraging signs too however. Just in the past few years, marmots have begun to move successfully between colonies. One marmot even made the journey all the way from Mt Washington to a colony on the west side of Buttle Lake. It took two years, with stops at several colonies along the way, but is exactly the kind of trip we wanted to see. The pups Cheyney and I saw are another positive sign that these unique animals are making a comeback in Strathcona Park.

It would not be possible see and hear these animals without the support of donors and funding from the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Fund. Thank you for making our work possible!

-Adam Taylor, Executive Director

This Project is funded by the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program (FWCP). The FWCP is partnership between BC Hydro, the Province of B.C., Fisheries and Oceans Canada, First Nations and public stakeholders to conserve and enhance fish and wildlife impacted by the construction of BC Hydro dams.

Marmot Recovery Foundation mourns death of Jim Walker

It is with great sadness that we announce that Jim Walker, our Board Chair, passed away unexpectedly on June 20th, 2017. Jim was a tireless advocate for nature, having held many senior government position, including the Assistant Deputy Minister in charge of Fish, Wildlife and Habitat Protection, and Director of Wildlife. After his retirement, Jim continued to volunteer his time and expertise as a Board Member of the Marmot Recovery Foundation and the Nature Trust of BC.

Jim has been the Foundation’s Board Chair since 2006, and we will miss his steady leadership and gentle guidance. Jim had a special place in his heart for the marmots, and spent countless hours volunteering in the recovery effort.

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Good Overwinter Survival for marmots

While it is still early in the year for marmots, our survey results so far have been positive.  Overwinter survival for the marmots has been high, particularly among breeding aged females. This is exactly what we hope to find at this time of year.  Later in the summer when pups start to emerge, we will be looking for signs of reproduction – that is to say active pups. We have feeders out at a number of colonies, which we believe may help the marmots reproduce more frequently.  Our fingers are crossed that lots of those breeding-aged females have litters!

Many people have been asking about the weather. Vancouver Island has had a particular cold and wet spring, which followed a cold winter! However, it does not seem to have had any negative impact on the marmots. In fact, weather station data suggests that after a few mild alpine springs, this year’s alpine weather was closer to the historic norm.

While there is a lot of work ahead of us this year, this is good news for the start of the season!

 

Marmots emerging from hibernation

Vancouver Island marmots are emerging from their winter hibernation. As often happens, some marmots emerge earlier than others, and many wake up briefly only to return to torpor for some time. Weather conditions in Vancouver Island’s alpine are within normal ranges for this time of year – that includes a fair amount of snow covering the ground.

Marmots are herbivores, with a wide ranging diet of leaves, grasses, shrubs, and even tree bark, and they are able to find food even with snow covering the ground. However, at several colonies, our field crews have set up feeders to provide the marmots with supplementary food. This extra, high quality food may help breeding age females improve their body condition quickly – and perhaps reproduce more often than normally would. 

Waking up from hibernation is an important and challenging time for the Vancouver Island marmot.  Their long winter sleep takes a toll on their bodies, and to recover from hibernation takes even more energy. The BBC produced an excellent segment on this challenge for their show ‘Animals: The Inside Story’

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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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