Increase in McArthur Island marmot population a growing pain for city - InfoNews

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Increase in McArthur Island marmot population a growing pain for city

The use of live bait traps has increased this year in an attempt to control the marmot population.
Image Credit: FILE PHOTO
June 20, 2019 - 5:00 PM

KAMLOOPS - The marmot population in McArthur Island Park continues to be a growing problem.

The yellow-bellied marmot is a species native to the area, but since human use of the island has increased, the population of predators such as coyotes and badgers has decreased. This had led to a steady increase in the marmot population, according to city parks, sustainability and civic facilities manager Jeff Putnam.

“We’ve never done an actual census, but I do know that we’ve live trapped approximately 400 animals last year,” says Putnam. “My staff are telling me that the population has definitely increased since then.”

Although he couldn’t comment on the number of marmots relocated using live traps this year, he notes that it is a costly way to control the population. He says the city will begin assessing other options to get the marmots out of the park.

“Although they’re very cute, they’re definitely very destructive,” says Putnam. “Feeding them is not helping the cause.”

Yellow-bellied marmots are herbivores, and live a full-belly life on the lush McArthur Island. Humans have been reportedly feeding the marmots, which is both unhealthy for their diets and creates a level of comfort around humans.

Putnam urges people not to feed these animals, as the damage they cause can be much worse than most might expect.

“The biggest concern for us is they get more habituated to humans being around through being hand fed,” says Putnam. “They undermine building foundations, they can do a lot of damage to our infrastructure, our soccer fields, our roads and our pathways.”

According to Putnam, the city spent about $13,000 on relocating these animals last year. As well as being expensive to relocate, repairing the damage they’ve done also carries a heavy price tag.

“There's been some damage where the city owned building at the west end of McArthur Island, by the mini golf. The city has had to spend quite a bit of money doing repairs around the base of that building because of the marmot damage,” he says. He is unsure of the cost of this project.

Although they are cute, he urges Kamloopsians to remember the damage they can cause. By creating a more natural human-marmot relationship, these animals may not be so inclined to live near and damage city infrastructure.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Jenna Wheeler or call (250) 819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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