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Thursday, August 18, 2011

A marmot problem

Olympic marmot in Olympic National Park

By now it's apparent to even the casual observer that much of last winter's unusually deep snow pack in the Olympic Mountains is not going to melt before the coming winter. 
The inevitable consequence of this phenomenon could have a dramatic impact on the quality of life that we all cherish. 
As a responsible journalist I am not about to waste valuable print space spreading fear, innuendo and rumor about a devastating natural disaster that could hit us like a freight train at any time in the next 10,000 years. It is however a cruel irony that the effects of global warming could include increased precipitation. 
In our mountainous regions this precipitation could occur as snowfall that is deep enough to survive the summer. Let's say last years' unmelted snow is buried under another record snowfall next year and the next and the next. 
It is only a matter of time before the vast weight of new snow falling on the old, compresses the mass into ice. 
It is then only a matter of more time before the ice begins to flow downhill to join with more ice which could create a glacier many thousands of feet thick. 
This has happened before. In the last Ice Age Western Washington was covered with ice, clear down south of Olympia! 
Archaeologists have long speculated that early man was able to survive on the edge of this harsh environment with the development of fur clothing. 
In the event of a new Ice Age, however, modern man might not have this luxury since wearing fur is now politically incorrect thanks to the animal rights people.  
While a modern Ice Age could directly impact man's ability to survive, it could also threaten our already endangered species with a deep freeze of global proportions.
I can think of no more dramatic example of an animal friend that desperately needs our help right now than the Olympic Marmot. 
The marmots live in cozy, flower lined dens with territorial mountain views. They spend most of the year hibernating. When the marmots are awake they spend their days picking flowers, eating, breeding and raising their young without having to go anywhere. 
I have spent years studying these rare and unique creatures in an effort to translate their “language.” 
The marmots communicate with a series of whistles that warn each other of backpackers. These are people who carry big loads on their backs while wandering around pretending to be homeless.  
The marmot language is easy to understand. They are making fun of us. 
As a way of giving back, I volunteered to carry out a survey of the declining numbers of marmots in Olympic National Park. My marmot survey methodology involved a high-tech solution to this complex problem by employing electroshock procedures with state of the art surveillance techniques.  It was hoped that by electroshocking the marmots out of their holes, they could be numbered and fitted with collars that would carry cameras back, deep inside the burrows. 
This would unlock a treasure trove of data about the marmot's private lives that could make them the stars of their own reality TV show. Despite the initial promise of this new research I was unable to find federal funding for our furry friends. This is unfortunate since the marmots need our help more than ever. If the marmot dens remain covered with snow all summer, we'll have to dig them out by hand. 
It might be the only chance the marmots have to survive until the next Ice Age. 
We'll thank ourselves later if we do the right thing now.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting read there Mr. Neal. It was credible enough to be enlightening but snarky enough to be hilarious. Sail on.