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Updates from the Team

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.

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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.

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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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2017 Marmoteer

SWEET DREAMS

Right now in the mountains of Strathcona Park, two adolescent marmots are bundled underground in a burrow stuffed with grasses and shrubs. Their bodies are cold, their breathing impossibly slow: the deep sleep of hibernation has overtaken Clayton and Aberfeldy. Until next spring, they will barely move, their bodies surviving on the stored energy of a summer spent eating and packing on weight. When they emerge next spring, these marmots will shoulder the burden of conservationists hopes, to produce the next generation of marmots.

Clayton and Aberfeldy were the first marmots to head into hibernation this year, but they were followed by others, including a bumper crop of pups. The Foundation’s field crew counted at least 42 pups this summer, and we suspect there are more, in mountains of Vancouver Island. After a difficult year in 2016, it is exactly what the Foundation’s Field Coordinator Cheyney Jackson hoped to see. “It was a huge relief,” says Cheyney. “Pups are the future of the species, but for me, seeing that the marmots are reproducing successfully in the wild, even after a really difficult year, shows that they do have the resiliency to bounce back.”

If you’re reading this, know that you played a role in creating this bounty of young marmots. In addition to supporting other recovery efforts, your support made it possible for us to put out 12 feeders this year – specifically to help boost the number of pups born. Like any good biologist, Cheyney is hesitant about crediting the feeders too much. “We are still in the process of collecting the data we need to show what difference the feeders make, but it does seem like marmots that have access to them produce pups more often.”

While Clayton, Aberfeldy, and their relations hibernate, we will busy preparing for next year. We are very happy to again have marmots at the Tony Barrett Mt Washington Marmot Recovery Centre, plus we have more marmots to release, more feeders to place, more sites to restore as we take another step towards the marmot’s recovery.

REMEMBERING JIM WALKER

In June, our Board Chair Jim Walker passed away unexpectedly. For over 20 years, Jim volunteered countless hours to helping the marmots. He was a tireless voice for the marmots: through letters, phone calls, and meetings, Jim sought to bring anyone who could make a difference to the table. His efforts and energy have helped keep the marmots from extinction.

Jim had a passion for nature, wildlife, and service, and he took action through his volunteerism and donations with the Marmot Recovery Foundation and other conservation organizations in Canada and internationally.

We will miss Jim’s advice and support tremendously, but are proud to continue his conservation legacy.
Thank you Jim for all that you have given the marmots and us.

MACALLAN’S JOURNEY

Strathcona Provincial Park is stunning: a landscape of snowcapped mountains, ice-blue glacial lakes, and waterfalls cascading over granite cliffs. Nestled among these giants are eight small marmot colonies. Nothing gives away that these particular meadows, among many in the Park, happen to be home to one of the rarest mammals in the world, recently reintroduced into the Park after more than 20 years of absence.

Despite the ruggedness of this wilderness area, marmots still need to move between colonies sometimes. At two years old, many marmots strike out from their natal colony in search of a mate at a new site. This movement is important: it ensures that marmots mix genes and prevents inbreeding. Along the way, some marmots do get lost, and one of our jobs is find and return these marmots to suitable habitat. More incredible is that many marmots somehow find their way.

Take Macallan. Born at Mt Washington, when he turned one year old in 2015 we moved him 12km to Mt Albert Edward in Strathcona Park. We hoped he would contribute to the young colony there, but Macallan had other ideas. Over the next year, he traversed the mountains, cliffs, lakes, and forests back to his home at Mt Washington. His presence at Mt Washington is welcome: the colony needed another male about his age.

Macallan’s journey was not part of our plan, but it is one we are happy to witness. Ensuring that marmots can travel between colonies is one of our goals – even if some of them chose to move back home.



 

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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!

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Canada Post Strike Update: We will get your donations!
We want to assure you that your mail will reach us, despite the current limited job action at Canada Post. As you may have heard, Canada Post has begun rotating strikes, including here on Vancouver Island. The job action may impact how long it takes your mail to reach us, and vice versa, but mail will still be delivered.

Alternatively, you can give to us online at marmots.org/how-you-can-help/donate-now/, or phone us at 250 390-0006 or 1-877-462-7668 - we do love to chat with you about your marmots!

Your gifts are reason we are able to continue the marmots’ recovery. Thank you all so much for supporting this special animal and our work to save it.
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