Olympic National Park seeks marmot counters; application deadline is May 1
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Diane Urbani de la Paz/Peninsula Daily News
An Olympic marmot surveys the terrain beside Olympic National Park's Hurricane Hill.

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OLYMPIC NATIONAL PARK — Applications are being accepted from volunteers who want to count and monitor Olympic marmots.

Olympic National Park is accepting applications for the Olympic Marmot Monitoring Program 2014 survey season.

The deadline is May 1, but it might close earlier if enough eligible volunteers have been accepted or last longer if some trips remain unfilled, organizers said.

The Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus) is the official state endemic mammal.

It is found only in the alpine meadows within the park and surrounding Olympic National Forest and nowhere else in the world.

Launched in 2010, the monitoring program employs teams of volunteers to visit designated survey areas within the park and gather information.

Through cooperation with the U.S. Forest Service, monitoring efforts extend over the species' entire range.

Volunteers must be capable of hiking to and camping in remote areas, navigating off-trail and working on steep slopes.

A limited number of day-hike assignments are available for the Hurricane Hill, Klahhane Ridge and Obstruction Point survey areas.

Survey trips are from one to eight days in length. Most survey areas are located between 5 and 20 miles from a trailhead or road and involve a one- or two-day hike with significant elevation gain.

Groups camp out in or near the survey areas and search for marmots for two to four days.

Volunteers have one training day that features both classroom and field training. They are responsible for their own transportation.

Camping fees will be waived at Heart o' the Hills and other front-country sites for the evening before training.

Park entrance and backcountry fees also will be waived.

Volunteers work in groups of two to six people. To ensure safety, volunteers must travel and monitor with a partner.

Volunteers ages 13-17 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Cat-sized rodents

Marmots are usually brown or at times tan or black and are housecat-sized rodents with long, bushy tails.

They can weigh 15 pounds or more before they enter hibernation in September or early October.

They are vegetarians, preferring fresh, tender, flowering plants such as lupine and glacier lilies. In May and June, they will eat roots and might even gnaw on trees.

They can double their body weight in the summer and use stored fat during a seven- to eight-month hibernation.

Their numbers declined in the 1990s and early 2000s, but data have shown that the population has been stable over the past couple of years, said Barb Maynes, park spokeswoman.

More than 90 volunteers participate in the project each year, hailing from the Olympic Peninsula, Seattle/Tacoma area and as far away as Portland, Ore., and British Columbia.

The monitoring program is made possible by donations through Washington's National Park Fund.

For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/PDN-MarmotVolunteers.

Last modified: March 06. 2014 8:06PM
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