Snow is finally here, and marmots across the Island have headed into hibernation. Marmots living further north and at higher elevations went underground first, but it now appears that pretty much everyone has joined them.
For the next 6 to 7 months, they will live off nothing but their fat reserves. Their heart rate, metabolism, and breathing will slow. Their body temperature will drop to near the ambient burrow temperature – around 6 degrees Celsius. Once every two weeks they will warm up briefly for a bathroom trip in a nearby underground chamber, and then return to their deep slumber.
Now that the marmots are asleep, we have work to do. Restoring their subalpine homes is a priority so the meadow ecosystems Vancouver Island marmots rely on will be maintained into the future. Restoration work waits until the marmots are underground so that we do not interrupt their feeding and winter preparations. But now, we have to move fast to beat the winter storms that will bring meters of snow to the mountains.
The marmot pictured here is Manny, a 5 year old wild-born marmot.
Photo by Eden Rowe