Fifteen years ago, a group of researchers returned from their annual field survey of Vancouver Island marmots with dire news: They had only been able to locate 22 animals. The entire wild population of this species was smaller than a kindergarten class. Conservationists estimated that within a year, it would go extinct in the wild. The bad news got worse. The marmots weren’t breeding well in captivity, and the first attempt to release captive-bred marmots failed. These captive creatures weren’t entering hibernation, which is apparently necessary for them to breed. And three of the four released marmots were killed by cougars. “It just seemed like blow after blow after blow for the population,” recalls Malcolm McAdie , veterinarian and captive breeding coordinator for the Marmot Recovery Foundation, which works to save the animals. “I sort of described it as having your heart pulled out slowly.” ( Related: See efforts to save the quoll, a cat-sized Australian marsupial. ) Extinction seemed inevitable, says Adam Taylor, the group’s executive director. But instead of giving up, they redoubled their efforts. Tough Teddy Bears And it’s easy to see why—besides being an important part of area’s ecology, the animals are, well, adorable. “They […]

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