First it was featured on the Netflix documentary Island of the Sea Wolves. Now, the endangered Vancouver Island marmot is soon to appear on the face of a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) stamp.
Early in the New Year, USPS will be releasing a series of stamps that draw attention to endangered species in the United States. They’re also celebrating the 50th anniversary of the country’s Endangered Species Act.
The postal carrier says it included the Vancouver Island marmot because it lives close to the border and is one of the “world’s most endangered animals.”
“Its plight points to several key aspects of endangerment: It is affected by climate change, an abundance of predators, and by forestry practices within its small, isolated range,” the USPS said in a statement to CBC News.
Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) may be having a big year for publicity. But on the ground, the little creature is struggling. Weather, predators, and landscape changes from logging and climate change have pushed this cute furry animal to the edge.
There were fewer than 30 marmots in 2003. Thanks to conservation efforts and a captive breeding facility on Mount Washington, in 2013 the population hit a high of 346. The following year, the number dropped to 266 animals and in 2017 it sank to 167.
Since then, the population has slowly recovered.
Adam Taylor, of the Marmot Recovery Foundation, said 2021 counts hit 258 marmots in about 20 colonies. However preliminary numbers for 2022 aren’t looking good.
Last spring, the marmots awoke from hibernation to a deep snowpack that made food hard to find. Deep snows lasted well into the spring, likely impacting reproduction.
The photos on the U.S. stamps, which also include the Mexican gray wolf, Lower Keys marsh rabbit, the Wyoming Toad, and Golden-cheeked warbler, were taken by National Geographic photographer Joel Sartore.
The images are part of his Photo Ark project to document “species before they disappear — and to get people to care while there’s still time,” according to Sartore.
This is the 2nd time the Vancouver Island marmot will appear on a stamp. In 1981, Canada Post featured the animal as part of an endangered species series.
The marmot is also living in people’s coin collections. In 2019, the Canadian Mint struck a 50-cent piece showcasing the rare mammal.