This is a sad, but instructive story for anyone who ventures into the mountains: Beware of hitchhiking marmots.
The Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society recently took in a young Hoary marmot, which normally would be residing on the slopes of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains, but was instead wound up a long way from home in the middle of an urban centre.
“She was found at a car wash, wandering around looking dull and disoriented,” the group posted on Facebook this week.
Marmots love minerals and salts found on, or in, vehicles — stuff they gobble up during the summer as they prepare for hibernation.
“They will enter vehicles and eat what they can find (including antifreeze),” CWRS explained. “…Marmots can tolerate levels of antifreeze that would be fatal to cats and dogs.”
This juvenile female marmot climbed under the hood of someone’s vehicle before they drove home to Calgary. Marmots are often seen trying to hitch a ride in vehicles parked in Kananaskis Country and Canmore to the west, the group added.
And if they make it too far from home, they often won’t survive the separation from their colonies, if they weren’t injured on the drive back to the city.
By the time this little marmot was found at the car wash, it was really too late.
“Unfortunately, our veterinarians determined the most humane thing to do was to humanely euthanize her after she was assessed to have kidney damage (most likely from consuming an excess of toxic substances),” CWRS said.
The group is sharing her story to remind people to check under and in their vehicles before leaving the trailhead. That includes the engine block, trunks, truck boxes, campers and undercarriages.
“Give your hood a good ‘knock,'” the rehab facility added. “We hope this will help catch marmots BEFORE they become hitchhikers!”