More Vancouver Island marmots being released as population slowly recovers

More Vancouver Island marmots being released as population slowly recovers

It’s an exciting time of year for the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Foundation on Mount Washington, as 60 marmots are due to be released in various colonies in the coming weeks.

Six were released on Mount Washington Monday.

“It’s a culmination of a whole year’s worth of effort,” stated the Foundation’s field coordinator, Kevin Gourlay.

At the release site, volunteers carry the marmots on their backs in cages to a nest box where the one-year-old animals step into their temporary new digs and a taste of freedom.

“Sometimes it takes them a few hours, and almost always within a day, they’re eating natural vegetation and exploring the area around their burrow, so I mean it’s an incredible adjustment and the fact that they’re able to make it is one of the things that’s made this recovery possible,” said Marmot Recovery Foundation executive director Adam Taylor.

Watch the report below:

The Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Foundation has been reintroducing marmots back into the wild on Vancouver Island since 2003, when there were just 22 left.

Habitat loss and predation had taken them to the brink.

Now, there are about 360.

“This is the only endemic mammal species in British Columbia, one of only four endemic mammal species in Canada. Really, if we don’t save the marmot, nobody else is going to,” added Taylor.

On Monday, it only takes a few minutes before the marmots start popping their heads out of the nest box, curious to explore.

“It’s a major relief. It’s the first time these marmots have been in the wild and have seen a mountain environment, and it’s just everything really that we work towards,” Gourlay said.

Raini Bevilacqua is an archaeologist studying the history of marmots and the K’omoks First Nation.

“There has only been, I think, six rock shelters or caves on Vancouver Island that have been identified to have archaeological assemblages of marmot and human consumption of marmot, so it’s a pretty minimally studied area,” she said.

“As our people have lived for many, many years on these lands and territories, we’ve always given gratitude to the things around us, and I think we need to give more gratitude to marmots,” added K’omoks First Nation member Jessie Everson.

With 360 marmots, the population is trending in the right direction, but they are still a long way from not being endangered.

“When you compare them to other endangered mammals, there are several thousand giant pandas, 600-800 mountain gorillas, so the marmots are still a critically endangered species,” said Taylor.

Seventy-five per cent of funding the Marmot Recovery Foundation receives is from public donations.

You can read more about its work here.

Dean StoltzDean Stoltz

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