Police flummoxed by nuisance marmot
Trapper unable to capture flower-eating animal for two years
Steve Revis photo
This marmot is wanted by Valdez police in connection with the disappearance of flowers from city-owned pots, which the suspect allegedly ate.
Valdez police are on the lookout for a fugitive from justice that has made off with thousands of dollars in city-owned property.
The suspect is described as having short brown hair with gray streaks and probably weighs about ten pounds. To aid in the apprehension of the perpetrator, identified by police as a marmot, Chief Bill Comer enlisted the aid of local trapper Mike Beaudion.
Armed with a non-lethal trap, which is designed to capture the animal alive and unharmed, Beaudion confirmed Monday that efforts to apprehend the suspect have been unsuccessful for the last two summer seasons.
He's pretty smart," Beaudion said, but declined to comment on rumors that photos of the suspect marmot marauding around the trap exist, or on other efforts made to take the animal which is described by Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game as the largest member of the squirrel family residing in North America.
"He probably ate about two thousand dollars' worth of flowers in the past two years," said Darryl Verfaillie, director of the city's Dept. of Parks and Recreation.
Verfaillie said he got a call from the town's grand dame of gardening, Tillie Wonder, who reported the rodent eating flowers in city-owned pots.
"They climb into pots, the pots down by the port," he said.
Comer said he has issued an arrest warrant for the marmot, whose main area of destruction is city property along the Kelsey Dock, extending down Hazelet Ave.
While the concept of a blue ticket – harkening back to territorial days when law enforcement officials would basically arrest undesirable people and drop them off outside the city limits – is illegal, it is perfectly okay to relocate many types of nuisance wildlife, such as the fugitive marmot.
There were two marmots wreaking havoc in the area last summer, but at least one was trapped and relocated by Mike Lindquist, the animal control officer.
According to the police chief, charges against the marmot include destruction of public property, disorderly conduct, and failure to obey the lawful orders of a police officer, to wit: Bill Comer.
The marmot could also be charged with other wildlife violations pending investigation.
The penalty for the misdemeanor crimes are relocation to Mineral Creek.
Attempts to reach the marmot were unsuccessful Monday and it was not clear if it was represented by an attorney.
It is also unclear which species of marmot the fugitive belongs too, though police mug shots suggest it is a hoary marmot, which ADF&G says claim territory throughout the interior down to coastal areas south of the Brooks Range.
The ADF&G website says hoary marmots can live up to 15 years, feeding mostly on vegetation, including flowering plants.
"The Hoary marmot is a diurnal herbivore and feeds on grasses, flowering plants, berries, roots, mosses, and lichen," ADF&G said. "Hoary marmots show selective foraging behavior, feeding first on favorite plants rather than ones that may be more abundant."
It is a true hibernator, and sleeps through winter in dens dug deep into rocky areas.