Great news: Canada's most endangered animal is making a comeback

Vancouver Island marmots are exclusive to Canada, and only found on Vancouver Island.

The Vancouver Island marmot is one of Canada's most endangered animals, with 2021 estimates suggesting there are around 250 individuals left.

But the beleaguered species just got a bit of a boost, thanks to the efforts of experts at the Wilder Institute, a Calgary-based wildlife conservation group.

Officials announced the birth of the 14 pups in late June, marking the first generation of pups born at the Archibald Biodiversity Centre (ABC), the institute's new conservation breeding and research facility. At the time of the announcement, officials said 14 isn’t likely the final amount, with additional "surprise" pups on the way.

That has proven to be true, with three additional pups found after the announcement, bringing the total up to seventeen.

“We’ve been eagerly waiting all spring for these pups to start making an appearance,” Caitlin Slade, Manager of Animal Care ABC at the Wilder Institute, said in a statement.

“After birth, Vancouver Island marmot pups will stay within their nest boxes with their mom and it’s important to not disturb them during the first two weeks after birth.”

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There are currently three Vancouver Island marmot breeding facilities, the others residing within the Toronto Zoo and at the Tony Barrett Mt. Washington Marmot Recovery Centre.

Vancouver Island marmots are exclusive to Canada, and only found on Vancouver Island. In the 1990s, the species faced a dramatic decline - by 1998, only 78 remain.

Aggressive conservation efforts have helped population numbers more than triple in the past two decades. The pups recently born in Alberta will eventually be transferred to a recovery facility in B.C., and many will be released into the wild. Some may remain in captivity to increase genetic diversity for future breeding programs.

According to the Wilder Institute website, 157 of the 214 marmots born at the facility have been transported to B.C. for release.

(Header image: Alina Fisher/Wikipedia CC BY 4.0)