Ah, here's your problem — there's a marmot stuck in your engine

An Edmonton man returning from a trip to wilderness this weekend thought he had engine trouble. When he looked under the hood of his car, he found a marmot.

Wildlife expert suggests checking engine after nature trips

A marmot sits on the engine of a car with the hood propped open.
After warning lights flashed on the dashboard, Vincent Bouchard pulled over to find a marmot had crawled into the engine. (Submitted by Vincent Bouchard)

An Edmonton man had an encounter with a very Canadian gremlin last weekend near Jasper: a marmot hid under the hood of his car and made a meal of some (thankfully unimportant) wiring.

"I drove nine [kilometres] down the road with a marmot in my engine compartment," Vincent Bouchard said in an interview Tuesday.

Bouchard had just spent two days backpacking with his children. They returned to the parked car at the end of a long gravel road Sunday afternoon and started on their way.

But there was something wrong — multiple warning lights on Bouchard's dashboard started blinking. 

He kept driving to get back into cellphone reception, eventually pulling over at an intersection on the two-lane highway 93A between Banff and Jasper.

Watch | Driver finds a marmot under the hood of his car while on the road: 

Driver finds a marmot under the hood of his car while on the road

4 months ago
Duration 0:36
Featured VideoVincent Bouchard’s drive home from Jasper, Alta., was something to remember as the vehicle’s dashboard lit up with warnings. Turns out, a marmot was causing the problem.

Bouchard was surprised when he opened up the hood.

"Because there's a big marmot right there sitting on my engine just looking at me, happy just being there," he said.

He called the kids over to see and the family shared a laugh. But then a new problem arose: how to get the marmot out.

Bouchard tried poking the rascally rodent with a stick but it just retreated deeper into the engine.

"It's hiding there and just whistling not being happy," Bouchard said.

Parks Canada was called and sent an employee. Bouchard said the first thing the employee did was spray the varmint with some cold water because of the heat of the engine.

Bouchard said someone from the wildlife conflict department was brought in. Eventually, the mischievous marmot was captured and caged — at least temporarily.

"They'll release the marmot later somewhere else," Bouchard said.

The story doesn't quite end there though. When everyone had cleared out, Bouchard got back on the road. 

The dashboard lights started flashing again. After calling around, he got a mechanic to come out.

"[He] looks under and sees that indeed the marmot had chewed and cut one of the wires."

After some patching, the family was journeying home once again. 

With so many wildlife-related delays, the family finally made it back to their home in Edmonton around 11 p.m. — eight hours after departing.

Furry engine-enjoyers

Melanie Whalen, director of animal care and wildlife services with the non-profit Calgary Wildlife, says the situation is not unknown, even in the city.

"We usually get a few marmots every year, at least that's reported to us, that make it back to Calgary from the mountains," she said in an interview Wednesday.

"Every year actually, we get more and more cases of this happening."

WATCH | This man opened his hood to find a marmot in his engine: 

#TheMoment a marmot got under the hood

4 months ago
Duration 1:20
Featured VideoVincent Bouchard was on his way back from Alberta's Jasper National Park after a hiking trip with his daughters when his dashboard lit up. Checking under the hood, he found a large marmot staring up at him.

Whalen said marmots are attracted to engine minerals and the smell of ethylene glycol in anti-freeze — a toxic attractor for all animals. That solution can drip onto wires, which may be a temptation to chew on.

Her advice is to check the engine after a sojourn through Alberta's natural splendour. You can bang on the hood but if the critter doesn't clear out, it may be time to call in wildlife officials.

"They can be quite aggressive so it's always good to call a professional to come out."

With files from Marc-Antoine Leblanc