The COVID-19 pandemic has changed all our lives, and the impacts of the disease reach even the marmots.
Many critically endangered species, including the Vancouver Island Marmot, are extraordinarily vulnerable to accidental disease transmission. We do not know if COVID-19 can affect marmots, but we have learned that prevention is the best protection from accidental disease transmission incidents in other endangered species. The Vancouver Island Marmot recovery project already implements practices to reduce the risk of introducing a new disease to the marmot population, and we continue to be vigilant about this risk.
Regular operations at the Mount Washington Tony Barrett Marmot Recovery Centre have always taken serious precautions against transmissible disease entering the marmot care areas. These precautions include special footwear, disinfecting footbaths, sterile gloves, face masks, and overalls to be worn over clothing in the marmot pens. This reduces the potential for pathogens to come into contact with the marmots. We will be taking additional care given the rapid and potential wide spread of COVID-19. This includes limiting our regular marmot checkups to reduce any non-essential handling.
In the wild, the Marmot Recovery Foundation’s regular practice has been to disinfect boots and any gear that may come into direct contact with marmots. Guests who have joined us in the past may recall Foundation staff spraying your footwear with disinfectant. Practices like these reduce the opportunity for disease to be accidentally introduced to the fragile population.
There is a human dimension to our work to our work as well. The wild marmot population relies on recovery efforts, including marmot releases, rescuing stray marmots, and providing supplemental feeding to support the small populations. We are committed to delivering these critical supports to the fragile population. Like many other organizations, our small team is adapting our work to maintain social distance. These include measures like maintaining social distance, monitoring of our health, and working from home whenever possible. You can still reach us by email, phone, and social media channels.
The Vancouver Island Marmot relies on healthy, safe people to deliver needed support. Thank you for supporting our work, and helping to keep our communities, and marmots, on the road to recovery.