‘Chill’ marmot takes up residence in busy North Vancouver neighbourhood

It might not be from around these parts, but that hasn’t stopped a certain rotund little fellow from making a home for itself in North Vancouver’s Lower Lonsdale neighbourhood.

A marmot, affectionately dubbed “Morty” by his new neighbours, has taken up residence in a small patch of brush near the corner of East First Street and St. Georges Avenue.

“I discovered him about two to three weeks ago, and every day I step outside he’s there,” said Leslie Robertson, a resident of the neighbouring apartment block.

“We’ve kind of bonded,” Robertson said. “He’s very, very chilled. He’s very protective over his burrow, which is very cute, but other than that he is very easygoing.”

Robertson said the friendly rodent is “very comfortable” with its human neighbours, rarely returning to its burrow even when people are present, but there are fears other species may be putting its safety in jeopardy.

Recent clearing of the brush in a nearby green space has left the burrow and surrounding land bare, and, with the area being a common spot for dog-walkers, Robertson is apprehensive of local hounds viewing Morty as a plaything or snack.

“I’m just a bit concerned for his safety. He’s usually very, very calm, but his home has been uncovered, and now he’s exposed,” he said.

“His life could come crashing down.”

A yellow-bellied marmot perches on a rock with its face raised to the sun.
Yellow-bellied marmots, like this one seen in a file photo, typically hibernate from September to March. (Submitted by Cheryl Hood/Allan Brooks Nature Centre)

WildSafeBC’s Gabriela De Romeri said Morty is likely a yellow-bellied marmot, a large species typically found in the southern part of the province and closer to the Interior. It is “a little unusual” for the rodents to find themselves as far west as Metro Vancouver, but not completely unexpected, she said.

The marmot could have been born in the area and only recently emerged for spring, or the adventurous creature could have racked up the kilometres and travelled solo from the Interior, she said.

While it is difficult to determine whether the marmot is a male or female, Morty clearly looks very relaxed, happy, and healthy, De Romeri added.

“Out of all the marmots, yellow-bellied types are best adapted to living close to humans, and can handle noises and disturbances,” she said.

WATCH |  A marmot in a car engine in Williams Lake, B.C.: 

B.C. woman’s car gets a cute-injected engine thanks to this marmot under the hood

10 months ago

Duration 0:07

Devin Rushton, from Williams Lake, spent more than an hour-and-a-half trying to get the animal out of her vehicle.

Dogs, however, are another matter.

“I am a little bit worried though about it burrowing in a park [frequented by dogs] … they might see a moment and just snap right into it,” she said. “It might be more ethical to have this creature moved.”

According to the City of North Vancouver, it isn’t unheard of to have marmots on the North Shore. In recent years one of the furry creatures was even discovered residing in the greenhouses at the city’s operations centre in Mosquito Creek, said city spokesperson Amanda Gibbs. 

Gibbs said the area where Morty lives is currently used as an informal meet-up area for dog owners, but there are no concrete plans for any kind of development.

“If there was to be a temporary or permanent change, an environmental assessment — as part of the project — would help identify any localized nests or burrows,” she said. “Our staff are asking the public to give it space, and we will follow up with any developments from our environment team.”

All marmots are protected under the B.C. Wildlife Act. Yet, while trapping and relocating yellow-bellied marmots without a permit is allowed, De Romeri warns it can be challenging to do so humanely and safely.

“That decision shouldn’t be taken lightly,” she said.

“If you ever do see a marmot in real life give it space, make sure it has an escape route,” she added. “If it is taking up space on your residence and deciding to create a burrow and live there, then there are different strategies to deter an animal from staying around — like contacting a qualified pest management contractor.”

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