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September 17, 2013 Calgary Zoo

Recovering the Vancouver Island marmot

One of the Calgary Zoo's key conservation species through their reintroduction work is the Vancouver Island marmot.

What a busy season it’s been for the Vancouver Island marmot recovery team. This dedicated group of researchers, biologists and zoo professionals has been hard at work both in the field and at three captive breeding facilities – including the Calgary Zoo.

Over the season a total of 83 microchips were implanted, 16 into captive marmots, and 67 into either wild or captive-release marmots from previous years.

This work centred around eight known wild marmot locations – Mount Washington, Mount Hooper, Hooper North, Haley Lake, Green Mountain, Big Ugly, Heather Mountain and Douglas Peak. One adventurous marmot even turned up in Nanaimo!

Our researchers are encouraged to report that in 2012 there were 24 to 25 litters discovered, with a total of 67 to 73 pups. In 2013 there were 22 litters discovered, for a total of 69 to 72 pups.

As well as those wild litters, three captive breeding locations contributed a total of six litters, with 18 pups this year. The Calgary Zoo contributed three litters, with 10 pups. The Toronto Zoo contributed one litter, with three pups. The Mountain View Conservation and Breeding Society contributed two litters, with five pups.

Green Mountain Habitat Rehabilitation Project

Habitat and climate change are two of the most important factors affecting Vancouver Island marmot recovery, so conservation teams have been testing the feasibility of creating new habitats by manually clearing trees in subalpine and alpine areas.

The first of these tests was on Gemini Mountain, and then this year on the Green Mountain Wildlife Management Area. The project was led and funded by the Nanaimo Fish and Game Protective Association and the Nature Trust. The Nature Trust also supplied field crews.

Although some additional piling of brush needs to be done, as well as debris management, the results were very encouraging. This appears to be a feasible and cost-effective way to create lasting, viable marmot habitats.

Conservation is a main priority for the Calgary Zoo. To learn more, check out our other conservation outreach stories.

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