British Columbia

Ground-squirrel scourge: swelling marmot population posing problems at Vernon arena

The city estimates there are now more than 50 yellow-bellied marmots living in the rocky hillside near Kal Tire Place.

More than 50 believed to be living near Kal Tire Place, with well meaning residents making problem worse

Marmot populations can swell if they settle in urban areas, where there are fewer natural predators, says wildlife control expert Pete Wise. (Rodger Lizee)

The City of Vernon, B.C., is dealing with a mounting marmot population near the city's arena — and well meaning residents are actually making the problem worse.

The city estimates there are now more than 50 yellow-bellied marmots living in the rocky hillside near Kal Tire Place.

The holes the ground squirrels dig near the arena are a hazard to staff and visitors and may make the rocky hillside unstable, according to a wildlife control expert hired by the city to relocate the animals.

"There's lots of them. There's no shortage," said Pete Wise, who added that marmots can cause thousands of dollars in damage to vehicles when they climb up under the hood and chew at wiring.

"It's a common problem. Wherever you have a parking lot and you have marmots within the proximity, that's one of the issues," he said.

'People keep bringing more marmots'

According to Wise, the marmot community keeps getting bigger because some people are feeding the animals, while others are dropping off marmots they capture on private property near the arena, as it's common knowledge that there's a group of them there.

"People keep bringing more marmots there and when they do, of course, then we run into the problem," he said.

Wise and his crew have captured 17 marmots this year in live bait traps, and relocated the animals to an area outside of the city.

Crews need to ensure marmots aren't left alone in the cages for more than four hours, or they may suffer dehydration and die, Wise said.

The city has put up signs in the area asking people not to feed the marmots.

The yellow-bellied marmot is one of four species of marmot native to B.C.


Brady Strachan

CBC Reporter

Brady Strachan is a CBC reporter based in Kelowna, B.C. Besides Kelowna, Strachan has covered stories for CBC News in Winnipeg, Brandon, Vancouver and internationally. Follow his tweets @BradyStrachan