British Columbia

B.C. marmot's luxury hotel stay to end

A maverick marmot from B.C.'s southern interior has taken up residence at one of Victoria's swankiest hotels, but he might not be able to stay much longer.

A maverick marmot from B.C.'s southern Interior has taken up residence at one of Victoria's swankiest hotels, but he might not be able to stay much longer.

The yellow-bellied marmot, a rodent species closely related to squirrels and groundhogs, has found digs on the grounds of the Fairmont Empress Hotel, one of the city's best-known addresses.

"He's not really causing any trouble," said Fairmont Empress comptroller Michael Yarr.

While hotel management does not mind having the marmot around, the B.C. government does.

The province wants to live-trap the animal and return it to its southern Interior home.

The move would not be for the marmot's own sake but to help protect the Vancouver Island marmot, a threatened variety of the animal that has only recently recovered from near-extinction.

"We don't want to compromise that improvement by having this alien marmot come to Vancouver Island from the mainland and perhaps bring with it some type of disease," B.C. Environment MInister Barry Penner said.

The animal showed up about a year ago, Yarr said. It is believed he somehow made the trip — possibly aboard a vehicle — from an area where the yellow-bellied marmot is prevalent, such as Kamloops.

"Apparently, he has really good taste in hotels and didn't want to leave the Fairmont Empress," Yarr said. "He has a little condo set up in the back."

Local fans

The marmot has also built quite a fan-base among locals.

"Marmie," as some have named him, is often fed treats by neighbourhood residents who've come to know where to find him.

"We never meant to get this close and this attached," said Victoria resident Darcy Lazar. "And we had no idea that the marmot would become more tame.

"We just thought we needed to help out a little bit and the next thing we know, he's eating out of our hands."

Lazar and his wife visit the marmot every few days and are careful not to feed him human food.

Although he's planning to send the marmot packing soon, Penner was still troubled when he saw people feeding him Rice Krispie Squares.

"This animal that looks cute, but in fact, feeding it high doses of concentrated sugar and carbohydrates is not good for its digestive system."