Roger the yellow-bellied marmot in the “wild” at the Fairmont Emnpress Hotel.

A colony of one

Roger the yellow-bellied marmot at home at the Fairmont Empress Hotel

  • Jul. 4, 2013 5:00 p.m.

Each year visitors travel from all over the world to stay at Victoria’s iconic Fairmont Empress Hotel.

In 2008, one guest arrived, and never left. Roger the yellow-bellied marmot, a non-native species to Vancouver Island, is believed to have taken a cue from a beat poet and hopped aboard a vehicle heading west.

He eventually took up residence in the hotel’s Centennial Garden.

“He’s made himself quite a nice little condo in there,” says Michael Yarr, comptroller general and head of the hotel’s environment committee. “You can see him on a hot day sunning himself.”

In 2010 when former environment minister Barry Penner caught wind of Roger, the province intervened with two failed attempts to live-trap him, but the little guy couldn’t be caught.

“The implication is that he shouldn’t be here and shouldn’t establish a colony because he’s not indigenous, and I guess that’s true,” Yarr says. “But it’d be pretty hard to start a colony of one.”

The stubborn little hotel guest doesn’t face much competition for food and shelter – the native Vancouver Island marmot remains MIA in Victoria and is one of Canada’s most endangered creatures.

Since Roger, named for one of the hotel’s former managers, couldn’t be enticed by peanut butter traps, he’s become a favourite of hotel guests and employees alike.

“We all look forward to him coming out of hibernation every year. After the first person has a Roger sighting, it runs around the hotel like wildfire,” Yarr says.

Roger wasn’t expected to survive his first wet West Coast winter hibernation, but five years later, the rotund rodent is still winning hearts.

But the joy the flower-nibbling fiend has brought his fans is tempered by an inescapable woe.

“One thing you really think about is that he doesn’t have any company,” Yarr says. “He’s all by himself and he has been for years.”

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