Though deep in hibernation, secure in a burrow beneath meters of rock and snow at Mount Washington, Van Isle Violet still managed to see her shadow early this Groundhog Day morning. It seems Vancouver Island will have to wait a bit for spring.

For the marmots, this may not be a bad thing. Violet for one may get to sleep-in this year. Plus a later winter may help more snow stick around. In summer, that melting snow keeps the marmots’ meadows green, and the plants nourishing, longer.

While more winter may not be the news you were hoping for, there has been some good news for us  marmot-lovers: the wild marmot population increased by about 17% in 2019. The population increase was thanks mostly to a large number of pups being born, particularly in the Nanaimo Lakes area. There good news from Strathcona Park too, where a new colony of marmots was discovered by hikers.

As for Van Isle Violet herself, she still has a few more months of hibernation, at least if her prediction holds up!

Van Isle Violet

For new Groundhog Day readers, Van Isle Violet is a Vancouver Island Marmot – a critically endangered species of marmot, or “Groundhog,” endemic to Vancouver Island. While Violet was born in the wild, like most Vancouver Island Marmots, she can trace her ancestry to a captive breeding program run by the Toronto Zoo, Calgary Zoo, and Marmot Recovery Foundation. The release of captive-bred marmots has enabled conservationists to recover the wild population from fewer than 30 individuals in 2003, the present estimate of approximately 200. 

Other partners in the recovery effort include the Ministry of Forests, Lands, Natural Operations, and Rural Development, and private land owners Mosaic Forest Management and Mount Washington Alpine Resort. In addition to the Recovery Partners, funding is provided by individual donors, the Habitat Conservation Trust Foundation, the Forest Enhancement Society of B.C., and the Fish & Wildlife Compensation Fund.