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Green Mountain Marmot Release

On Friday, July 13th we released 10 marmots to 5 mountains in the Nanaimo Lakes area. Despite superstitious date, the releases went well, and thanks you some help form our friends, these marmots have successfully begun the first step of their transition to the wild.  Below are photos and stories from Green Mountain, the first to receive its marmots on this morning.

Green Mountain Wildlife Management Area is set aside specifically for Vancouver Island Marmots, and has been home to a small colony of marmots for over decade. Last year, a predator caught most of the colony, leaving only a single male marmot, Parker, on the mountain. To prevent the colony from becoming extinct, we had prioritized it for releases this year.

To support the work and keep costs down, the field team is divided into groups. Field Coordinator Mike Lester and veterinarian Malcolm McAdie ride in the helicopter with all the marmots. The rest of the Field Team hike up release mountains in the morning to meet the helicopter. This keeps costs down, as the helicopter is most expensive part of this day.

At Green Mountain, veteran team member Norberto Pancera leads the group. The “Green Team” also includes MRF’s Executive Director Adam Taylor, and two employees of the Calgary Zoo, Kelly and Llewellyn. Kelly and Llewellyn’s help mean we’re able to get to more mountains today. Our goal: to get all the marmots released before the day gets too hot. Other field teams on other mountains today include Megan and Jordan at Mt Washington and Michael and Clemens at Haley Bowl.

The “Green” team left Nanaimo at 5:30 am, to allow enough time to hike up the mountain and meet helicopter at 8:00 am. Read through the photos to find out how the rest the release went, and meet Denman and Bligh, the newest residents of Green Mountain

After the steep hike in, the first order of business is tracking down Parker. We don’t want to release the marmots right on top of him! At the same time, the team is scouting for a good burrow to release Bligh and Denman too. A great burrow is located within a short hike of the helicopter landing spot.

The terrain at Green Mountain is rocky, steep, and covered in lush layer of ferns, grasses, and wildflowers – perfect for marmots. Malcolm and Mike are a little later than planned. That’s alright, the hike in took us a little longer than planned too!

The foundations of an old ski hut make the perfect landing spot. Norberto waits nearby to receive the marmots. The Helicopter only touches down for moments. Mike and Malcolm unload Bligh and Denman. The hand off takes less than 5 minutes, and then the helicopter is off again.

Now its up to the field team. Fortunately, we don’t have far to go today. Kelly carries Bligh to the burrow selected earlier. The marmots are stressed. Everything is new to them – the helicopter, the people, and the open mountain. We’ll try to keep them in the burrow for a few minutes to show them its a safe spot.

While Bligh stays inside the burrow, Denman bolts. He manages to leap past all of us. Fortunately, he does not go far. 
Plan B: Denman has picked a spot about 50 meters downhill. Perhaps a peanut butter trail will lead him back to the burrow?
Meanwhile, Bligh starts to explore! She’s been eating the peanut butter and leaf biscuits already, and seems to be adjusting rapidly to life in the wild.

Denman is still stressed. The crew back off to give him time and space. Before leaving, we confirm that he has made his way back to the rock just above the burrow. Still, we need to come back soon to make sure he is adapting to his world.

All in all, a success. Together, Parker, Bligh, and Denman will hopefully keep the colony at Green Mountain alive.

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First Release of 2018

Today we released the first 3 marmots of the season. Stuart, Flores, and Sidney joined the colony at Mount Washington Alpine Resort with seeming enthusiasm.

Born in captivity at the The Calgary Zoo, this the first time these marmots have experienced the wild, and the speed with which they made that transition was impressive. Within moments the marmots were exploring the world around their new home, and sampling the local vegetation.

There are still more marmots from the The Toronto Zoo to be released, but it is great to see the first ones out adapting so quickly after their release!


Field Crew Norberto and Jordan help veterinarian Malcolm get the marmots into their new home. Its a new and frightening experience for the marmots, and they don’t always want to go. Malcolm and Norberto position the trap and encourage the marmot to go into the nest box by tickling its feet.

The marmots today were poking their heads out immediately. These are two of Flores, Sidney, and Stuart.

Within a couple minutes, the first marmot is out! This is quick, often the marmots will spend 5 to 15 minutes in the familiar nest box before emerging.

Looks like this marmot has already picked out her/his favorite lookout rock.

Time to explore, and coax the others out of the nestbox! As tempting as it is to stay, we need to let them be for bit. They are in the middle of the Mount Washington colony, and should be safe to explore their new environment.

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Happy Birthday Vancouver Island Marmots!

Today we are celebrating the birthdays of all our Vancouver Island Marmots! Now you might ask, how is it that all marmots are born on June 1st, and how do we know?

Peeking behind the curtain reveals that of course not all marmots are actually born on the same day, and we don’t know exactly when they are born. Marmot pups are born in the hibernaculum, and they stay in the warm dark den for about 30 days. We won’t actually see any pups until early July, when they first start to explore the world beyond the burrow.
We do know that the pups are born around June 1st, and it’s just convenient really to roll over all the ages all on the same day.

So here’s to a very happy birthday(-ish) to all the marmots, and our wish that lots of pups are recently born, being born, or about to be born on the mountains!

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A Star Wars Update for May the 4th Day!

A small update on some of our “Star Wars” marmots: It turns out that, Jabba and Amidala hibernated together! We detected them alive yesterday in the same hibernaculum. Hopefully they’ll be out the burrow soon – and maybe some pups will follow them later in the year!

Here is “Hanna Solo” peeping out from the nest box back when we released these marmots in 2016.

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Thank you Hans Helgensen!

Recently, Executive Director Adam Taylor gave a presentation to Kindergarten classes at Hans Helgensen Elementary on Vancouver Island Marmots. Adam taught them about their habitat, hibernation, and some of the challenges that Vancouver Island Marmots face.

We were absolutely delighted to receive a pair of beautiful thank you coloring books! These are a just a small sample of the wonderful drawings and facts the students shared.

Thank you for having us Hans Helgensen!

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Today, we released two marmots to the colony at Mount Washington. Ernest and Ezekiel were born at the Toronto Zoo, and today got their first taste of the wild.

They only have one year at Mount Washington however. Next year, we will move them to a more remote colony in Strathcona Park, where they will carry on the re-establishment of marmots in their historic range.
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Last year, we asked you for additional support so that we could start breeding marmots again at the Tony Barrett Mount Washington Marmot Recovery Centre. Thanks to everyone’s gifts, we made the decision re-open breeding at the Facility in the fall.

Today, we have wonderful news – the first pups born at the Centre! Sally and Pepsi are proud parents of 3 healthy and active pups. Vancouver Island marmots are slow breeders, and this is a full year ahead of when we expected to see our first pups. It is a wonderful surprise!

These pups will be released to the wild next year. They, and the future pups born at the Centre, will help us speed up the recovery the marmots’ wild population tremendously.

We owe a huge thank you to our donors and partners who have made this moment possible. We can’t thank you enough.

This is one of the pups peeking out from the rock structures in their outdoor pen.
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Right now, staff at the Tony Barrett Mount Washington Marmot Recovery Centre, the Toronto Zoo, and Calgary Zoo are listening for the sounds of pups. The pups stay in the burrow for a month or more, so right now listening is the only way for us to know who may have babies. We’re confident we’ve heard at a few pup noises, but only time will tell how many. In the wild, we won’t know anything until July, when the pups finally starting exploring the world outside their burrow. Until then, here’s some footage from last year to remind you what we’re waiting to see! ... See MoreSee Less

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