Roger the Empress marmot enjoying his 11th year on hotel grounds

Victoria’s famous ground squirrel charms locals and tourists alike

The notorious ground squirrel living in luxury at Victoria’s Fairmont Empress is alive and well, say staff.

Roger the yellow-bellied marmot arrived in Victoria in 2008 and has since made a home of the historic hotel.

As a species native to B.C.’s interior, no one is quite sure how Roger got to Victoria, but staff have their theories.

“He might have hitched a ride with someone,” speculates Jeremy Heryet, marketing manager for the Empress. “Maybe in the back of an RV or a truck or something like that – a guest that actually stayed at the hotel.”

“When they stayed here, he hopped off and into the bush and created a home for himself and he’s been living there ever since.”

While yellow-bellied marmots typically live in rocky areas of south-central B.C., Roger has made a home for himself in hotel’s small rock garden, finding it an ideal locations for his winter burrows. Additionally, the harbour-front property is full of lush grass, flowers and foliage for his meals come spring and summer.

According to the Empress, various organizations have tried to trap Roger and return him to his native habitat, but he’s avoided capture at least four times.

And although yellow-bellied marmot friends typically live in colonies of up to 20 members, Roger doesn’t exactly seem lonely.

“He’s certainly not afraid of people. I’ve seen him a few times, and if you make a sudden movement he’ll jump back into the bush, but for the most part he is happy and content with people around him,” Heryet said. “He’s quite photogenic, he’ll pose for photos.

He’s definitely a local story for us, he’s quite well known in the community.”

RELATED: A colony of one

With marmots often living past 15-years-old, Roger is certainly a senior. Still, the stout ground squirrel seems to be in good shape.

“We have seen him this year and he’s out and about, looks healthy and well,” Heryet said, adding that Roger is comfortable with his ‘roommates;’ the bees brought in as part of the Fairmont’s honeybee program.

“Sometimes you’ll actually catch him sitting on the beehive, in and amongst the bees.”

But if Roger’s competing for role of Empress mascot, he’ll have to accept defeat. The hotel added a golden labrador/retriever named Winston to its team.

Winston, who was “too friendly” to be a service dog, acts a greeter and ‘canine ambassador’ for the hotel.

“[Winston is] very quickly becoming our mascot,” Heryet said, adding with a laugh that they are hoping Winston and Roger “become friends.”

RELATED: New dog greeter at Fairmont Empress is spreading smiles



nina.grossman@blackpress.ca

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