One of the two Vancouver Island Marmots released Monday on Mount Washington takes a look around at its new home. Photo by Erin Haluschak.

WITH VIDEO: Two endangered marmots released on Mount Washington

With three new pups born in May, two more Vancouver Island marmots were released on Mount Washington Monday as part of the annual program to increase the species in the wild.

Malcolm McAdie, project veterinarian, captive breeding co-ordinator for the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Foundation said the wild population is about 150 to 200, while the captive population is around 60.

The captive-bred marmots – which are bred at the Toronto and Calgary zoos – are part of 18 marmots who will be joining the wild population of the critically endangered species this year.

The release Monday was the second release of the year. Earlier in June, the foundation released a solitary female in the Nanaimo Lakes region. Other releases are set to take place in Strathcona Provincial Park.

The Vancouver Island marmot population has been recovering since the species nearly went extinct in the early 2000s.

From 2003, when fewer than 30 wild marmots remained, the population has grown significantly, but it is still at a level where the population needs to be increased, noted McAdie.

“Right now, we have these small colonies – we have a number of them, but they’re small, and they’re susceptible to predation.”

He noted climate change does play a factor in their population.

“When you have an animal that’s this rare, some people compare it to a drunk person walking on the edge of a cliff. There’s always the potential for a catastrophe. It’s more the variation of weather – drier summers or changes in the snowpack.”

RELATED: Newborn Vancouver Island marmots have conservationists encouraged

He said within thousands of years, the marmot’s population has expanded and decreased, and like many species in extreme environments, only time will tell how they are able to cope with the changes.

Adam Taylor, executive director of the foundation credited the Calgary and Toronto zoos for investing significant research time into the species, and within the last year, the foundation wanted to help the population’s recovery with increased breeding.

“We really weren’t expecting (captive marmots) to breed until next year, but we have our first litter of pups right now. And we’re over the moon to see our first three pups – they will be released next year,” he explained.

The parents – Sally and Pepsi – are “good, established marmots,” but playing the marmot dating game is a bit of luck and a bit of strategy.

“You try every year to figure out which marmots will get together. What we figured out is marmots that sleep together, stay together. Marmots that hibernate in the same burrow when they wake up they tend to be pretty cozy together even if those two marmots couldn’t stand each other the previous year.”

Taylor said marmots – especially those with pups – are especially fun to watch in the wild.

“They’re always near mom and dad – they’re very active parents.”

For more information about the Vancouver Island marmot and the foundation, visit www.marmots.org

Just Posted

UPDATED: Joe gets suspended sentence in Teddy the dog cruelty case

Melissa Tooshley expected in court on Thursday in same case

Victoria councillors consider 55 per cent raise

Greater Victoria Chamber of Commerce CEO says councillors are ‘absolutely not’ city employees

Five rescued after boat smashes into the rocks between Tofino and Ahousaht

Ahousaht volunteers, coast guard leap into action in stormy weekend seas

Vancouver Island cat stars in national fundraising calendar

Jax the cat was one of 13 pets selected from nearly 45,000 entries

Cold, stormy winter forecast across much of Canada, The Weather Network predicts

In British Columbia temperatures will be slightly above normal and precipitation will be just below normal

Nineteen boats carrying invasive mussels stopped at B.C. borders

Waters of Columbia-Shuswap still test mussel-free

Saanich resident calling for gas powered leaf blower ban finds support as autumn leaves fall

‘Cities don’t need to be noisy and happiness and wellbeing should be a priority,’ says the resident

Escaped Metchosin inmate sentenced to additional year tacked on to 14-year sentence

Man escaped from William Head Institution arrested days late in Esquimalt

Woman ‘horrified’ after being told to trek 200 kilometres home from Kamloops hospital

‘I can’t get from Kamloops back to 100 Mile House injured, confused… no shoes, no clothes whatsoever’

Canadian universities encourage exchange students in Hong Kong to head home

UBC said 11 of its 32 students completing programs in Hong Kong have already left

Midget no more: Sweeping division name changes coming to minor hockey in Canada

Alpha-numeric division names will be used for the 2020-2021 season and beyond

B.C. pushes for greater industry ‘transparency’ in gasoline pricing

Legislation responds to fuel price gap of up to 13 cents

Campbell River RCMP officer assaulted during traffic stop

Officer expected to make a full recovery; had been conducting impaired driving investigation alone

Most Read