If there is one lesson that Vincent Bouchard has learned from his most recent hiking trip to Jasper National Park, it’s that there is no “rodent in engine” warning light on his dashboard.
But now the Edmonton man knows what it means when all of the lights on his vehicle’s panel start flickering: it’s time to call Parks Canada dispatch to enlist the help of human-wildlife conflict agents to help extract an ornery marmot from under the hood.
He had just packed up his two children and their bags in the vehicle after a hike at Moab Lake two weekends ago.
“As soon as we get in the car, I start driving. Then all the lights start flashing on my dashboard: check engine and ABS and parking brake. Everything was flashing. There’s not too many people taking that gravel road in the afternoon and there’s no cell connection as usual, so I was like, ‘Okay, I’ll just keep driving at least until we reach the 93A.”
Once he reached the intersection, he walked around the car before he opened the hood. He was laughing when he told the kids to come out and have a look at their stowaway.
“This big marmot [was] right there sitting on my engine just looking at me. He seemed perfectly content.”
The whistler seemed content to stay. After Bouchard tried extracting it by poking at it with a stick, he called Parks Canada to intervene.
“I think this is the second one I’ve heard of in my time here in Jasper over 10 years,” said James McCormick, human wildlife conflict supervisor with Parks Canada, confirming that Bouchard did the right thing by calling in the professionals.
“They have strong jaws and big teeth, and yet they’ll defend themselves for sure. Because they’re a wild animal, they potentially carry disease that could also be transmitted to humans. We ask that you don’t make contact with wild animals. Give us a call through the Jasper Dispatch 24-hour number, and we’re happy to respond anytime and come out and help anyone.”
The number for Jasper Dispatch is 780-852-6155.
After a bit of a struggle, the crew were able to pull the marmot out and let it escape into the wild. It was clearly not happy, Bouchard said, but it ambled off nonetheless.
“I don’t think I’ve heard a marmot whistling that much in such a short amount of time. It was really scared,” he said.
Bouchard made it back into town around 6 p.m. last Sunday and had someone from the Jasper Towing Company come to take a look at the damage. The marmot had chewed on a wire, requiring a minor patch.
He and his kids made it back to Edmonton late, but they made it back without transporting their furry new friend hundreds of kilometres away from its home.
Bouchard remained quite pleased that the creature did only enough damage to make for the best possible resolution to an otherwise unusual human-wildlife conflict.
“I was really happy that it had chewed on the wire, because otherwise I probably would not have noticed and drove all the way to Edmonton with a marmot in my engine compartment. I don’t know. It might have died and I wouldn’t know.”
By Scott Hayes, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Original Published on Jun 13, 2023