Canadas most endangered mammal

Canada’s most endangered mammal r1 ... Subscribe to this newsletter narwhal logo BECOME A MEMBER marmots poking out of plywood box I mean, just look at these little fellers. If this isn’t love at first sight, I don’t know what is.

And thanks to some heroic recovery efforts, these Vancouver Island marmots — Canada’s most endangered mammals — will hopefully be sticking around for a long time to come.

Back in 2003, only 27 of these members of the squirrel family remained on Earth. Clearcut logging, road building and other human disturbances gave predators like cougars easy access to their colonies. Conservationists scrambled, ramping up a recovery program that has since helped the population reach more than 200.

Though the Vancouver Island marmot is far from in the clear, those on the ground say it’s worth celebrating these early successes if we have any hope of tackling a much larger biodiversity crisis: close to one million animal and plant species worldwide are now threatened with extinction. In British Columbia alone, there are more than 2,000 species at risk — and no standalone legislation to protect them.

“We are in a period where it’s going to be pretty grim. We are going to lose species,” Adam Taylor, executive director of the Marmot Recovery Foundation, told The Narwhal’s Sarah Cox.

“And it is easy to believe that it’s hopeless, that we simply can’t recover these species and that there’s no point in even trying. And I think it’s important that we have these success stories we can point to — that both uplift us within the conservation community and that we can use as exemplars to talk about the value of conservation programs, that they do really have the potential for success, that they’re not doomed to failure.”

Taylor is confident that they’ll be able to restore the Vancouver Island marmot — once on the brink of extinction — to a healthy population level.

So how is that being done? Marmots are bred at zoos in Toronto and Calgary, where staff will roll taxidermic cougars and wolves past their enclosures to prepare them for predator encounters. Then there’s the key work being done at the Tony Barrett Mount Washington Marmot Recovery Centre, where marmots are also bred and then released carefully into the wild.
marmot poking out of plywood box (Fun aside: the marmots are given names like The Dude or Dora — yes, that explorer. One year, a litter was named after members of the Tragically Hip.)

Before being released, radio transmitters are implanted into their abdomens so they can be tracked. Then, they’re taken out to a mountainside, where they’ll make their temporary home in a plywood box.

Sometimes, when a marmot is being stubborn about leaving its cage for its new home, a little foot tickle will get them going. If that doesn’t work, Taylor says, “you have to take the ultimate irritation measure, which is to blow on their bums … that always seems to convince them.”

After taking some time to get used to their new surroundings, they’ll poke their heads out, drawn by the smell of a peanut butter biscuit. Who doesn’t love home comforts?

As incredible and heartwarming as this population turnaround is, it doesn’t come cheap. In the past decade alone, the recovery foundation has spent almost $8 million. That doesn’t include the costs of breeding the marmots at zoos across Canada and flying them over.

That’s why experts say governments need to act now to prevent more species (ahem, spotted owls, caribou and fishers) from reaching these dire straits. Nothing less than the biodiversity of our planet is at stake.

Take care and say hi to Dora,


Arik Ligeti
Audience Engagement Editor
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Note from a Narwhal

broadback forest “Sarah Cox’s piece on the Broadback Forest illustrates why I am so happy to be a monthly contributor,” writes Jamie, a Narwhal member in Hamilton, Ont. “The story carries a positive theme throughout, which I find is consistent with most of the writing in The Narwhal. Despite discussing serious subjects, the story offers hope and solutions.”

“I think Sarah and many Narwhal articles achieve this by speaking directly with the people on the land and presenting their stories personally. You are providing a wonderful and necessary service. Keep up the great work.”

Thank you so, so much for this lovely note, Jamie. You touched on so many pieces that are core values in our work: to look critically but also present solutions, to tell complex stories beautifully, to make sure we hear from those with deep connections to an issue.

PAOV, help us tell more stories that don’t only flag problems, but also present solutions. Become a member of The Narwhal today by signing up to give whatever amount you can afford each month. It might seem like a small step, but together our members now contribute nearly $300,000 a year, which makes our journalism possible.
BECOME A NARWHAL This week in The Narwhal

Bringing the endangered Vancouver Island marmot back from the brink

marmot in the wild By Sarah Cox

One of the rarest mammals in the world was almost wiped out two decades ago, sparking an elaborate and costly recovery program that has boosted numbers and offers hope for other at-risk species. Read more.

Closing Canadian fisheries would help rebuild stocks and lead to economic gains: study

fishing boats By Matt Simmons

An analysis shows temporarily stopping fishing would lead to economic gains of up to 10 times above the status quo after 30 years. Read more.

Alberta coal miner launches legal challenge against federal environmental assessment

Minister Jonathan Wilkinson By Ainslie Cruickshank

Coalspur says Minister Jonathan Wilkinson acted ‘unlawfully’ when he ordered a federal review of its planned Vista thermal coal mine expansion, a project that could more than double current production levels
. Read more.

‘The fish are much, much smaller’: study finds Yukon-Alaska salmon declining in size

Gwich'in Elder James Itsi dries chum salmon By Julien Gignac

Climate change and competition with hatchery fish are causing chinook, sockeye, chum and coho to shrink and produce fewer eggs. Read more.

Skeena LNG: five things you need to know about the proposed project in Terrace, B.C.

Top Speed Energy LNG container By Matt Simmons

Chinese company Top Speed Energy plans to build a liquefaction plant and truck gas to remote communities, mines and the Prince Rupert port for shipment overseas — and it won’t undergo an environmental assessment. Read more.

What we’re reading

Bison bringing hope in Saskatchewan globe and mail stoney nakoda take alberta to court the sprawl marmot gif When you’re trying to draw attention to your species’ imminent extinction. Tell your friends to keep up with news on Canada’s biodiversity crisis by r33

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