The Calgary Zoo is aiding in recovery efforts for the Vancouver Island marmot, an endangered species. Pictured here, a marmot at Mount Washington. (Black Press file)

Vancouver Island marmot population gets boost with help from Calgary Zoo

Seventeen pups to spend winter at Mount Washington recovery centre before being released next spring

The Vancouver Island marmot population will get a boost thanks to assistance from the Calgary Zoo.

The marmots are listed as endangered on the Government of Canada’s species at risk public registry, but according to a press release, 17 marmot pups have been born at the Calgary Zoo’s Devonian Wildlife Conservation Centre this year.

The pups are under the watch of the zoo animal care team and will be transferred to Tony Barrett Mount Washington Recovery Centre, where they will spend the winter, said the press release, and are expected to be released in spring 2021.

The Calgary Zoo is also working with partners on an experiment that introduces supplemental feeding to improve body condition and potentially boost wild reproduction, said the press release. Marmots that hibernate with good body condition have a better chance at surviving the winter and conceiving pups in the spring, the release said.

Research teams from the zoo are in their third year of research and gathering data on rocky slope environments to obtain marmot body weights to investigate whether this could be utilized in conservation efforts.

Adam Taylor, executive director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation on Vancouver Island, said work that Calgary and Toronto zoos are undertaking is crucial to marmot recovery.

“Supplemental feeding was something that we started doing six or seven years ago and we had a few goals behind it. The big one was we wanted to monitor some of these remote sites that we can’t get access to very often … one of the things that we noticed was that at the sites where they had the supplemental food, it really felt to us like they were producing more pups than we would’ve normally expected and so that’s when we got the Calgary Zoo involved,” said Taylor.

RELATED: Two endangered marmots released on Vancouver Island

He said it’s been a collaborative effort over the past two years.

“Any tool that we can get that helps this population recover faster is just tremendous,” said Taylor. “We need to know that we’re having a positive impact. That’s really the big underlying question.”

There were an estimated 200 marmots on the Island at the end of 2019, said Taylor, with nine marmots being released on Mount Washington within the last two weeks.

According to the Government of Canada, the Vancouver Island marmot was originally designated as endangered in 1978, a status re-confirmed in 1997, 2000, 2008 and 2019.



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