Strapped in for the ride of their young lives, two Vancouver Island marmots were whistling up a storm on their first steps back into the wild Monday.

“I can feel him running back and forth in the cage on my back,” said Mosaic Forest Management’s Molly Hudson, who was tasked with carrying one of the marmots.

“So he’s obviously excited.”

The captive zoo-bred yearlings named “Ezekiel” and “Ernest” were headed up high into the alpine of Mount Washington. Whiskey jacks curiously watched on to meet their noisy new neighbours.

“We think this is a good spot for the marmots to learn a little bit about life in the wild without actually having a lot of danger,” said the Marmot Recovery Foundation’s Adam Taylor.

The animals are two of 18 to be released around the mid-Island this summer and were carried here on the backs of the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Foundation team. With its donors, the foundation has championed the endangered species recovery since it fell to frightening numbers of just 30 animals in the wild in 2003. There are now 200 in the wild.

“So I’m really happy to see the results of that,” said Hudson.

“Yeah it’s an incredible experience,” said Trevor Oussoren of the Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program, that sponsors the Marmot Recovery Foundation.

“This is my first experience kind of seeing this release site so I’m just taking it all in,” said Oussoren.

“It’s great.”

To increase numbers further, the Marmot Recovery Foundation re-opened its breeding facility on Mount Washington last fall, and to their surprise, they already have their first litter of pups.

“And so when they first come out they’re only about that long,” said Foundation veterinarian Malcolm McAdie, motioning about four inches (10 centimetres) in size.

“And they’re scared of their own shadows but they become bolder and bolder,” said McAdie.

The three pups are about a month old now. In a year’s time, they will be released to the wild like the two were Monday.

Andy Neal