Endangered Vancouver Island Marmots Are Making a Comeback

Vancouver Island marmots may just be the antidote required for the dystopian times we are living in.

If you must be trapped inside during this current winter of discontent, alone at a desk, scrolling through hours of video—best it be watching one of the most endearing animals on the planet.

Researchers looking to conserve Canada’s most endangered mammal take advantage of the creature’s seven-month hibernation season to mine footage and field data for more insights that will help the animals survive, said Adam Taylor, executive director of the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Foundation.

The biologist describes the marmots as a good “gateway animal” to hook people into caring generally about the conservation of species at risk. “They are really good ambassadors,” Taylor said of this cat-sized member of the squirrel family.

But for all its cuteness, the Vancouver Island marmot is a role model in resiliency, Taylor added. Despite enduring a harsh climate, challenging conditions, and changing habitat due to the impacts of human activity, the marmots represent a potential good-news story that illustrates the possibility of bringing a species back from the brink of extinction.

The critically endangered species has gone from a low count of just 30 wild marmots living in a handful of locations in 2003 to approximately 200 living in colonies across 20 Vancouver Island mountains by 2019.

Through a captive breeding and release program in conjunction with the Toronto and Calgary zoos, habitat restoration, and monitoring activities, the foundation and its partners have seen the Vancouver Island marmot repopulate areas where it was completely extirpated, Taylor said. The last two years have resulted in a combined population of more than 100 pups born in the wild, he said.

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