Monday, May 4, 2009

Wrongway rodent.

The east side of No. 5 Road in Richmond is famous for its procession of temples, mosques and churches. Who knew it was also a zoological hotspot, a place of exotic fauna? Yesterday, as I was leaving Paulik Park, one of the garden volunteers called my name. She hurried up with her friend, who had a camera. They showed me a picture of a mystery mammal seen near one of the temples.

It was a Yellow-bellied Marmot, Marmota flaviventris. This is a strange, although not unique sighting in Richmond.

Yellow-bellied Marmot, Marmota flaviventris, Richmond BC. Photo by Laura Drisdelle.

Yellow-bellied Marmots are found in the southern half of British Columbia, east of the north-south divide of the Fraser Canyon. According to Nagorsen(2005): “ inhabits the Fraser and Thompson Plateaus, and the southern mountains, including the Cascades, Monashees and Selkirks. The western limit of the range is on the eastern side of the Fraser River; the northern limit is the Williams Lake area, although there is a historical museum specimen taken in the 1950s at Prince George.” They inhabit the grassy lower slopes of mountains, in areas where there are prominent rock features (or man-made equivalents such as concrete highway barriers) for perching to survey the surroundings and bask in the sun.

So why is one here, 150 Km west of home, in Temple Row?

This happens from time to time. In our previous neighbourhood, also in Richmond, which was still under construction while we lived there, I saw a yellow-belly wandering among half-built houses. And about a decade ago, one decided to move into a pipe sticking out of the ground in my mother-in-law’s backyard in Surrey BC, again way the wrong way for a marmot to be. Most famously, a small colony became established in the 1980s near the north end of the Iron Workers Memorial Bridge in North Vancouver. That group was eventually relocated to Manning Park, which is within their natural range.

The most likely explanation is that now and then a marmot will blunder into the back of a truck, or onto a railway car, and be transported with a load of lumber to wherever the lumber is to be used.

In the absence of a rocky perch, a pile of pallets will suffice. Photo by Laura Drisdelle.

Although the marmot looks healthy and happy, it probably doesn’t have much of a future hanging out between busy No. 5 Road and Highway 99. I have contacted a local Wildlife Rescue organization, and with luck the marmot will be live-trapped and transported back to the interior.


Nagorsen, D.W. 2005. Rodents & Lagomorphs of British Columbia. Royal British Columbia Museum.


Marvin said...

Hoping the marmot can be captured and transferred to a more appropriate location.

CatHerder said...

wow..he is cute..i love the colors in the fur and the tail..if i saw him i would have thought he was a fancy groundhog lol!

Kim and Victoria said...

What an attractive animal! So they don't know where they belong, huh?

spinyurchin said...

Crazy hobo marmot...riding the rails...looking for adventure...