By Rochelle Baker, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

​Kevin Gourlay and Chelsea Brager describe their job as “marmoteering.” 

The two are part of a team of five field technicians who go to formidable lengths to find and monitor Canada’s most endangered, and possibly most endearing, rodent — the Vancouver Island marmot. 

It’s a case of climb every mountain, ford every stream in the search for the shy, chocolatey-brown, cat-sized cousin of the squirrel — even if that involves hiking, biking, skiing, or scrambling along peaks while enduring cold, heat, or bugs. 

“We’re kind of the boots on the ground for the recovery effort,” said Gourlay, who works with his peers for the Marmot Recovery Foundation to help monitor, release, rescue, and feed the highly endangered creatures. 

Endemic to Canada and threatened with extinction, only 30 Vancouver Island marmots remained as recently as 2003 in a handful of locations — decimated by habitat loss spurred by climate change, and hungry wolves and cougars able to get to their colonies thanks to the roads built for industrial activity in the previously inaccessible alpine forests.

But a collaborative breeding and release program and conservation effort has boosted the wild population to approximately 200, and reintroduced marmots to areas where they had been completely wiped out. But their existence is still extremely tenuous, and every marmot counts. 

This item is reprinted with permission from the National Observer. For the complete article, click HERE

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