More endangered Vancouver Island marmots released in the wild

It was a good day for the future of the Vancouver Island marmot.

Five marmots, bred in captivity in recent years, were released Friday on Mount Washington – on the same day the provincial government and Island Timberlsands and TimberWest announced an additional $200,000 to help preserve the endangered species.

“In the early 2000s there were fewer than 30 marmots in the wild. At that point we started rescuing marmots and taking them into captivity, just to protect the species,” says Cheyney Jackson of the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Project.

A decade of work has begun paying off. Today, there are over 300 marmots in the wild. Still, everyone involved in the endeavor knows there is more to be done.

“It sounds like such a great increase and of course we’re thrilled to be able to accomplish that. The numbers we’re aiming for are more like 400 to 600 at a minimum,” says Jackson.

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“The recovery of this unique marmot is important to Vancouver Island. No one wants to see it become extinct. It’s encouraging to hear that they are recovering, but there is plenty of work that needs to be continued to make certain of the species’ long-term future. This funding will definitely help,” said Comox Valley MLA Don McRae in a statement.

There are three main areas where the marmots reside: Nanaimo Lakes, Strathcona Park, and Mt. Washington, with the ski hill the best bet for the animal’s long-term survival, according to Jackson.

“All that activity actually deters predators, we think, from preying on the marmots on this hill. Of all the colonies we have, a marmot is way more likely to die of old age on Mt. Washington.”

The release of five marmots was bittersweet for Malcolm McAdie, a Marmot Recovery Foundation Veterinarian.

“It’s great to get them out, but on the other hand you have to worry about how they’re going to do,” he said.

“That’s one thing of conservation, you know they’re not all going to survive.”

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