15 endangered Vancouver Island marmots released into the wild by helicopter

15 endangered Vancouver Island marmots released into the wild by helicopter

The Marmot Recovery Foundation is celebrating the release of 15 more endangered Vancouver Island marmots.

The critically endangered marmots were released at four sites in the Nanaimo Lakes region in dramatic fashion Friday morning.

“The first thing that happens with this particular group is that starting around 3:30 a.m., the marmots are loaded up into one of our vehicles, driven down to a helicopter hangar in Nanaimo – and then by 6:30 a.m. that helicopter was in the air to head out to the first site,” said Adam Taylor, executive director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation.


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Ground crews were already waiting for the helicopter deliveries, with teams camped out at three of the four sites overnight, while crews hiked to the fourth release site Friday morning since it was closer to civilization, according to Taylor.

Each team’s goal was to escort the marmots off of the helicopters and keep them safe until the aircraft left and the site had settled down.

The marmots were then put into a burrow site, filled with snacks left by the team – such as peanut butter – and given time to adjust to their environment.

Team members were then tasked with waiting outside the burrow and seeing if the marmots were brave enough to leave, explore and adapt.

RELATED: 52 endangered Vancouver Island marmots being released this summer

Taylor notes that each of the marmots was raised in captivity, as the Marmot Recovery Foundation tries to rebuild the critter’s population.

“These marmots haven’t seen the wild at all,” he said. “They’ve been living in captivity, they’ve always had a fence probably not more than 15 or 20 feet away from them, so it’s a huge transition for them.”

The Vancouver Island Marmot population had declined to under 30 in the early 2000s.

In 2003, the Marmot Recovery Foundation began its efforts to rebuild the population, and now there are more than 200 marmots scattered across five colony sites on the Island.

Taylor notes that none of the colonies are huge, and that the species is not out of the woods yet. However, he’s optimistic about their recovery over time.

“This year has been a good year,” he said. “Overall, I think we have made pretty incredible progress with the marmot.”

Adam ChanAdam Chan

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