Mortimer the marmot goes missing

MORTIMER, the yellow-bellied marmot that showed up behind a West Vancouver animal clinic last month and touched of a frenzy of calls from concerned residents, has gone AWOL.

The out-of-town ground squirrel, whose natural habitat is several hundred kilometres from the coastal suburb, came to the attention of staff at Hollyburn Veterinary Hospital in late June when it darted across the back parking area as the veterinarian was arriving at work. Staff later tracked the critter to a tunnel between their building and neighbouring Chez Michel Restaurant, where it had apparently settled in. The marmot had likely hitched a ride on a shipment of lumber or a similar industrial transport to West Vancouver from its stomping grounds in the Interior.

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Fearing for the animal's safety, clinic employees prepared to capture the itinerant rodent in a live trap in the hope it could be transported back to its home, but the creature - by then referred to formally as Mortimer Brown - vanished before they could put the plan into action.

The North Shore News ran a story about the peripatetic nut lover June 29, and over the following week, the animal hospital received as many as 15 phone calls daily from West Vancouverites who thought they had seen it. A plot of the reports suggested the marmot was heading west through Ambleside. The last sighting was somewhere near Bellevue Avenue and 19th Street.

On hearing about the Mortimer's misadventures, Grouse Mountain's wildlife manager Devin Manky volunteered to lend a hand. He got in touch with a former Grouse employee who was trained in live capture and lent him one of the mountain's traps. The former ranger has been setting and checking the trap daily ever since, in an effort to bring Brown in.

So far he hasn't had any luck - and now the leads have dried up, said Manky. It's not clear why the sightings have dwindled.

"There are a lot of different possibilities," he said. "He might have moved somewhere else, or something's happened to him, or he's here and we're just not seeing him."

Manky is hoping a member of the public might have information that could lead the team to the furry fugitive.

Anyone who has seen or heard from Mortimer in recent days is asked to contact Manky by email: dmanky@grousemountain. com.

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