Endangered marmot temporarily evades checkup by sitting on trap

Endangered marmot temporarily evades checkup by sitting on trap
The Marmot Recovery Foundation was trying to trap Jordan, the marmot, for a checkup and caught this moment where she sat on top of the trap. (Shayn McAskin/Marmot Recovery Foundation)

While teams were out trying to catch endangered Vancouver Island marmots to give them a checkup, Jordan the marmot temporarily outsmarted crews by sitting on top of a trap instead of going inside.

Adam Taylor, executive director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation, says Shayn McAskin was “somewhat frustrated” when he spotted Jordan on top of the trap.

Taylor says the foundation is gearing up to release marmots that were bred in captivity into Mount Washington and the Nanaimo Lakes area, so teams are currently working to trap some wild marmots for checkups in preparation.


“This is all kind of prep for getting ready for the for the big release surge making sure we know who’s where, how they’re doing,” Taylor said. “For a marmot like Jordan, trying to find out if she’s lactating, so does she have any pups? And that will really guide us in terms of where we actually want to release marmots and who we want to release to each site.”

Taylor says Jordan was captured after the picture was taken, and she will get her checkup then be released later Monday.

Part of the capturing process includes putting transmitters on marmots that do not have them, which will help provide more information about the wild marmots.

“If we have transmitters, we know a lot about that individual marmot, right? We know what sex they are, we know how old they are, and we can start to figure out who else they’ve been hanging around with if their mate also has a transmitter,” Taylor said.

“It can influence which marmots we select to release to that site.”

Taylor says if there is currently a female and male marmot, they may not have success releasing a male marmot in the area, since males will chase off other males from their territory. So in that case they may release a female to the area.

They may choose to release a male if there is a lone female, or if the existing male is older.

“It really allows us to make the best possible use of the marmots that we have in captivity and give all those marmots the best possible chance of contributing to the future recovery of this species,” Taylor said.

He estimates there are currently 60-80 marmots with transmitters in the wild.

In the coming weeks, the foundation is gearing up to release 25-27 marmots into Mount Washington or Nanaimo Lakes.

For the trapping efforts, Taylor says the goal is always to trap as many marmots as possible, but that isn’t likely due to the personality of the marmots.

“We’ve been able to trap seven marmots so far today, which is great, except it gets harder from here on out,” Taylor said. “So we’ve trapped the easy marmots, the shy marmots, they’re the ones that haven’t gone into the traps.”

Taylor says there are some marmots that are easier to trap than others.

“It totally depends on how much the marmots cooperate with us. We just caught one just a few minutes ago, Manny, who he really likes the peanut butter in the trap, and so he will go into the trap really quickly,” Taylor said. “In fact, the hardest part is that if he’s near another marmot, it’s really hard to trap them both. Manny will just keep going into the trap and then we just have to keep releasing him.”

He says there are other marmots that are harder to trap, so while they are hoping to trap all 14 marmots in the area of Mount Washington for checkups, they do not expect to catch them all.

“Unfortunately, she passed away at the end of last year, but we had a marmot named Violet and she was just notoriously shy,” Taylor said.

“We caught her once and then five years later, and we tried to trap her every year and she just was really suspicious of traps really uninterested in going in there to get peanut butter.”

The marmots are currently coming out of hibernation, so while it is too early to have an estimate of the marmot population, Taylor says it is expected that the 258 marmots from last year had about a 90 per cent survival rate.

“The best I can say is in terms of overwinter survival, despite the late snow, most indications seem to be pretty good,” Taylor said.

“We have had a few mortalities, but that’s kind of to be expected, unfortunately, not every marmot makes it through hibernation. But the numbers have been in the 90 per cent survival so far and that’s all we can really hope for 85 to 90 per cent survival is fantastic.”

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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