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Updates from the Team

Remember the year that was, and thinking of years to come

As the end of the year approaches and I think back on the year that was, I recalled this lovely note that the Foundation received from Tom and Margaret. Their message wonderfully captures one of the great hopes I have for our work: that future generations will have the chance to experience seeing the marmot, and other endangered wildlife, in the wild.

Many thanks to Tom and Margaret for sharing this with us, and to everyone who has shared their stories with us. We love your messages and encouragement!

Adam Taylor, Executive Director

Hi Everyone –

On Father’s Day, June 19th our son-in-law, Brad, took the children up Mt. Washington to ride on the ski lift. On the way up they spotted a lone marmot on the right-and side of the lift. On the way down, about 15-20 minutes later, it was still sitting in the same spot. This time Brad had his camera out and took the enclosed pictures. (Between 5-5:30pm)

Even though we have supporters of your great recovery program for a number of years we have never had the fortune of seeing one of these beautiful creatures in the wild. I’m so glad my grandchildren have had the opportunity.

Please know we admire and appreciate all the good work you are doing to save our Vancouver Island marmots. Best wishes always.

Most Sincerely,

Tom and Margaret”

(Please note this scan was altered to remove personal information)

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Restoration work on Mt Moriarty

It’s November (just in case you’re not near a calendar). That means all the marmots should be in bed, and we should be busy writing field season reports. Things aren’t going to plan. 

Continuous, heavy rain delayed planned restoration work for over a month, but just as we were giving up hope, a brief break in the weather enabled us to get a crew into Mt Moriarty to restore a key feature of marmot habitat – sight lines.

When marmots see a predator near their meadow, they will sit up, often on a high rock near a quick escape into a safe burrow. If the predator gets too close, the marmots whistle to alert the rest of the colony, and if the predator continues to approach, the marmot will whistle again and then dive for its escape route. It is not a foolproof system, but it generally works reasonable well as long as conditions are right.

One of those conditions is maintaining sight lines. If the marmots cannot see the predators because of trees or branches, then the warning system falls apart. In the past, this cover was cleared from marmot meadows by avalanches, but a number of years of below average snow falls have allowed significant cover to grow in a number of meadows in the more southern marmot colonies.
Our first priority was Mt Moriarty in the Nanaimo Lakes region. Our restoration goal at Mt Moriarty was to remove this stalking cover by hand, restore the marmots’ sight lines, and minimize disruption to the marmots. In October, Crew Leader Mike Lester prepared the site with staff from BC Wildfire Service and Island Timberlands by flagging all marmot hibernacula – no work would be conducted too close to a burrow – and making safety plans for the site by marking and clearing debris from access trails, flagging hazards, and planning how to manage woody debris to eliminate any increased risk of wildfire with the BC Wildlife Service. After that, all we needed was a small patch of dryish weather and the work could get done.

We waited. And waited. And started making contingency plans. And finally, after a record-setting month of rain, we spotted a clearing in the weather. Mike and volunteers Sean, Jerry, and Alicia headed up to do the work. It can be hard to see in the photos, but they put in an incredible day and got about 95% of problematic cover removed! Hopefully, the marmots that hibernate in the meadow were blissfully unaware of anything unusual happening, and will awake in the spring to an improved view.

The Foundation is extremely grateful to Sean, Jerry, and Alicia, all whom work for the Ministry of Forests, Lands, and Natural Resource Operations, for volunteering for a hard job and doing amazing work. Also to Island Timberlands and the BC Wildfire Service for coming out with Mike to prepare the site and assisting with safety and fire plans. Environment Canada’s Habitat Stewardship Program also matched donations and volunteer time for this work, which made this project possible. Thank you all!

We hope the marmots don’t notice a thing – except for predators of course!

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The Marmoteer – Online!

Followers of our work to recover the Vancouver Island Marmot have been receiving our annual newsletter the Marmoteer by mail. Now we’re happy to offer it as a online pdf file as well! This winter we’ll be working on an email distribution option – stay tuned! In this issue, find out more about our work to help the Strathcona population of marmots and meet our new Executive Director, Adam Taylor!

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 Download the 2016 Marmoteer!

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Marmots heading to Hibernation: End of season check-ups underway

It’s the end of September and many of the marmots are headed to hibernation (as our social media accounts!). Mike Lester and Wildlife Veterinarian Malcolm McAdie are doing final checkins on the marmots.  At Castlecrag they found nice weather and active marmots, but it was clear that they were getting ready for a long winter’s nap. As the end of season approaches, the marmots stay very close to their burrow.

One of our marmots, Kirby was detected in a burrow on Castlecrag; a bit of a surprise since we released him on a different mountain! Admittedly, Kirby’s release site was reasonably close to Castlecrag, and it is great to see the marmots move around between these close colonies. Kirby is sharing Castlecrag with Johann, Shiraz, Daisy2, Howard, plus Mia and her pups, as well as an unknown male we suspect is there. A great marmot community!

Meanwhile on “P” Mountain, P Gal and Canoe are down already! We located their plugged burrow last week.  The weather at “P” Mountain is cooler, but it was earlier than we expected.  The Marmot plug their burrow with rocks to keep safe from snow or predators, and it looks like P Gal and Canoe are nicely tucked in for winter!
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Here’s a close up of the marmot burrow, with a GPS for scale.  Still not a lot to look at! But it will protect the marmots against winter weather and predators for 7 months.

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Thanks to Mike Lester for these photos!

 

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Farewell to our 2016 Field Crew

As the summer comes to a close, it’s time to say farewell to many of our field crew, most of whom are returning to school. We’ll continue to post some of their photos and stories on here, and celebrate the tremendous amount of work they’ve put in this summer to care for the Vancouver Island Marmot and its habitat.

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From left to right: Mike Lester, Noberto Pancera, Joey Chrisholm, Andrew Horsfield, Marina Gray, Jordan Cormack, and Cheyney Jackson. Not pictured are Malcolm McAdie (Wildlife Veterinarian), Alana Buchanan (Marmot Keeper), Kim Metz (Office Coordinator) and Adam Taylor (Executive Director)

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Marmot Recovery Foundation

Spot the Marmot! (this one is very hard).

A bit of backstory to this photo: we received a report of a Vancouver Island Marmot on a residential property on Saturday. Field Coordinator Mike Lester went out to have a look and found this frightened guy hanging out in the woodshed. Mike was able to trap the marmot, and transport him to the Tony Barrett Mt Washington Marmot Recovery Centre.

This fellow will be re-released to a colony once he has a clean bill of health.

He is easy to spot once Mike caught him, but see if you can find the marmot's fur in the first photo.
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Happy Father's Day to all our Marmot Dads! Vancouver Island Marmot fathers play an important role in rearing pups. They play guard and teach socialization skills to the energetic youngsters.

We still have another few weeks before we learn who is mom and dad this year, as the young marmots will not emerge from the burrow until early July, but we're hoping for lots of new dads out there!

Thanks to Alena E.S. Conservation & Photography for the photo.
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Field Coordinator Mike Lester spent part of his Sunday catching this Yellow-bellied Marmot that was accidentally transported to Nanaimo. This marmot is now at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre waiting for transportation back to the Interior.

Why don't we want marmot tourists on the Island? First, marmots are most likely to thrive in areas where there are others of their species. Second, we don't want to transmit diseases between marmots species that would not normally encounter each other.

Just how are these Yellow-bellied Marmots getting to the Island? We don't know for sure, but we suspect they arrive in construction materials and large hay bales that may look like good burrows. Once these items start to move, the marmot may just hunker down for the ride. Another possibility is that they crawl into the underside of cars, which Yellow-bellied Marmots are known to do. Again, they may just hunker down until the end of the trip.

Regardless of whether it is a Vancouver Island Marmot or Yellow-bellied, if you see a marmot on Vancouver Island, let us know!
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