Do you have a marmot in your engine? It’s more common than you think

When Devin Rushton of Williams Lake saw a groundhog enter the undercarriage of her 2007 Mazda last week, she immediately rushed to try and shoo the creature away from the vehicle.

That’s because it’s not the first time she’s had one under her hood.

The first time was last July.

At the time, the rodent had snuck into her engine and she had spent over an hour and a half trying to coax and scare it out of the engine bay.

“I was like pushing him with a stick, like ‘Come on mate, get out, get out’ and nothing,” she said Sunrise Kamloops host Doug Herbert.

WATCH | Marmot sits in the engine compartment of Williams Lake’s car:

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Devin Rushton of Williams Lake spent more than an hour and a half trying to get the animal out of his vehicle.

She even called her father to help him remove the rodent.

Eventually, after many failed attempts to dislodge it, the marmot finally fled in a moment of calm.

The second time, the groundhog left Rushton’s vehicle after a few minutes, but it turns out his experience isn’t all that unusual.

Pete Wise, urban wildlife specialist and owner of the Wise Wildlife Control Service, said he receives an average of two to three calls a week from people inside who have a groundhog in their vehicle.

“It happens a lot.”

According Wildsafe BC., there are four species in British Columbia: the Hoary Marmot, the Yellow-bellied Marmot, the Critically Endangered Vancouver Island Marmot, and the Wood Marmot.

Yellow-bellied marmots have significant populations in the interior of British Columbia. This is why it is one of the rodent species that most often comes up against human-wildlife conflict, as its range overlaps with cities.

A yellow-bellied marmot is perched on a rock, face up towards the sun.
Yellow-bellied marmots live in southwestern Canada and throughout the western United States. (Submitted by Cheryl Hood/Allan Brooks Nature Centre)

Wise said they seek out summer dens and end up in vehicles as a temporary refuge when looking for feeding and den sites.

“I’ve seen up to $7,000 worth of damage in vehicles, especially a BMW where the groundhog got in and chewed through the wire harness,” Wise said.

He said the least effective thing people can do to eliminate the rodent is to disturb them.

“Open your hood and leave it open, and the only thing you don’t want to do is keep harassing them.”

Wise said people should keep pets and children away, and eventually the rodent will leave when the wind blows through vehicles.

“They don’t like it. They’ll get down, and they’ll leave.”

He said groundhogs have a strong bite and advises people against trying to remove the rodent themselves.

Groundhog travel poses potential risks

Beyond the risk of damage to vehicles, groundhogs in vehicles can also cause rodents to move across the province.

The Marmot Recovery Foundation on Vancouver Island has already seen four yellow-bellied marmots appear – likely traveling from the interior to the island in vehicles.

“We’ve seen them under the hoods of vehicles … in association with building materials,” said the foundation’s captive breeding coordinator and project veterinarian Malcolm McAdie.

The Vancouver Island Marmot is one of North America's most endangered mammals.
The Vancouver Island Marmot is one of North America’s most endangered mammals. (Photo by Calgary Zoo)

He says this poses a risk to the critically endangered marmots on the island, as they could bring disease or interbreed.

“We don’t want yellow-bellied marmots to settle here on the island.”

McAdie suggests people check their vehicles if they hear an unusual noise coming from under the hood, just to make sure there are no unwanted passengers.

Rushton has another tip: make sure you have something to keep animals out of the engine bay. She thinks her car has had repeated problems due to it not having a skid plate, so rodents can easily get into the undercarriage.

His plan to prevent future groundhog incidents – get a kick plate or get rid of the car.

Sunrise Kamloops8:40 amDon’t try to scare groundhogs out of your engine: expert

How do you get a groundhog out of your engine bay? We heard from a Williams Lake woman to whom this has happened twice and an animal expert on what to do if it happens.

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