Marmots on Mt Washington
by Pat Karis 20 July 2019
On Saturday ten of us caught the early ferry to Comox in search of Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis) on Mount Washington.
We rode the chair lift to the top of the mountain, where club members were treated to an informative talk on the marmot by Dr. Andrew Bryant, who wrote the first, 2nd and 3rd recovery plans for this endangered species while simultaneously spending two decades asking – and answering – scientific questions. Starting with “where do they live and how many of them are there?
While Dr. Bryant spoke, the group was surrounded by assertive and inquisitive whiskeyjacks looking for a handout…
Later on, we traversed part way down the mountain, where we all enjoyed the spectacular scenery while having our lunch .. after our rest, Dr. Bryant, resumed his chats and discussions along the way, stopping periodically to look and listen for the elusive marmot…
Unfortunately, and much to our disappointment, no wild marmots were spotted, although there was evidence along the way, that there had been activity around their burrows. It was a noisy day on the side of the mountain, with a lot of heavy machinery making its way up and down the mountain that day, probably spooking the marmots into a safer and quieter retreat.
A quick walk-by of the captive-breeding facility (which is not open to the public) eventually yielded a few marmots…but…according to Andrew: “these captive marmots are being well-managed…but if you ask me…nobody should see their first Vancouver Island marmot in a cage…and you’re standing way too close”.
By the time we reached the parking lot (it’s a 5 km walk and a 780 m descent), everyone agreed that they were much better informed of the plight of the Vancouver Island marmot, our information session today bringing new awareness to our already delicate ecosystem and what we need to do to bring it into balance.
Thank-you very much to Dr. Bryant for all of his insights and dedication over the years – a truly informative and enlightening outing.