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Overview

Brief Summary

Biology

Like all marmots, the Vancouver Island marmot lives in of one or more families. Families typically contain one adult male, up to two adult females, sub-adults, juveniles and the offspring produced that year (2). The colony lives in a complex series of underground burrows, and communicates by direct contact and whistling vocalisations including a high-pitched alarm whistle to warn others of impending danger (2). Hibernation occurs each winter between the end of September and early May, and hibernacula are characterised by the presence of grass and mud plugs sealing the burrow entrance during autumn, and tunnels in the snow after the occupants have emerged (2). During hibernation, marmots live off stored fat reserves built up in summer (4). Sexual maturity is reached at about four years of age, after which individuals breed every other year. Mating occurs in the burrow during the months of spring, and the litter, which usually contains three pups, is produced towards the beginning of July (2). The diet consists of over 50 species of grass and flowering plants (2).
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Description

This house-cat sized marmot or ground squirrel was first described in 1910. It is currently regarded as one of the rarest mammals of North America with fewer than 100 individuals remaining (3). It has quite a stocky body and a blunt, chubby face with small ears (7). The lustrous fur is usually a rich chestnut-brown colour with a creamy white patch around the nose and mouth that extends to the underside of the neck (7). The tail is fairly bushy and there is often a mottled streak of creamy-white fur along the chest and belly. Pups can be identified by their small size and very dark brown to black fur (2).
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Description

Vancouver Marmots live only on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. They are the only endangered mammal in Canada, with a population estimated at only 100-200 individuals. Archaeological finds from sites 700-2,500 years old, and museum records, indicate that this species was once more widespread on the island. Why there are so few now is not known: long-term environmental change, hunting, and habitat degradation due to forestry practices may have influenced its decline. Its lifestyle is much like that of other marmots. Although Vancouver Island enjoys a mild climate, the mountains where the marmots live get heavy snows, and Vancouver Marmots spend seven or eight months of the year underground, deep in hibernation.

Links:
Mammal Species of the World
Click here for The American Society of Mammalogists species account
Visit ARKive for more images of the Vancouver marmot  More images, video and sound
  • Original description: Swarth, H.S., 1911.  Two new species of marmots from north-western America, p. 201.  University of California Publications in Zoology, 7:201-204.
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Distribution

endemic to a single state or province

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National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

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Global Range: (1000-20,000 square km (about 400-8000 square miles)) This marmot is endemic to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Historical and confirmed modern distribution records are confined to mountains in the central and southern part of the Island, with occurrence in natural habitat typically at elevations of 900-1,450 meters (Nagorsen 1987), although populations in clearcuts may extend to lower elevations. Occurrences are concentrated on a few mountain ridges in the Nanaimo-Cowichan Lake region of Vancouver Island, British Columbia (Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team 1990). There is some evidence that marmots have disappeared from some parts of their historical range, but huge areas of potential habitat have never been formally surveyed. Opinion is divided on the likelihood of discovering new, significant populations.

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Range Description

This marmot is endemic to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Historical and confirmed modern distribution records are confined to mountains in the central and southern part of the island, with occurrence in natural habitat typically at elevations of 900-1,450 m asl (Nagorsen 1987), although populations in clearcuts may extend to lower elevations. Occurrences are concentrated on a few mountain ridges in the Nanaimo-Cowichan Lake region of Vancouver Island, British Columbia (Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team 1990). There is some evidence that marmots have disappeared from some parts of their historical range, but huge areas of potential habitat have never been formally surveyed. Opinion is divided on the likelihood of discovering new, significant populations.
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Geographic Range

Vancouver Island marmots, Marmotta vancouverensis, are found only on Vancouver Island, which is off of the southwestern coast of Canada.

(Woods, 1980)

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

Other Geographic Terms: island endemic

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Historic Range:
Canada (Vancouver Island)

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Range

Endemic to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada (2), between 1864 and 1969, marmots were recorded on 25 different mountains (2). In the past three decades however, the species has been lost from around two thirds of its former range (2). At present it occurs in five adjacent river drainages in south-central Vancouver Island, and around 100 km away in an isolated colony on Mount Washington (2).
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Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Vancouver Island marmots have a variable appearance, depending upon season. At the beginning of summer, the fur on the body is black, the snout is white, and white streaks are present on top of the head and on the chest. As the summer progresses, the fur turns to dark brown, and by the next spring the fur is a cinnamon color. After molting in July, the fur of M. vancouverensis is again black. Not only does the color change with the seasons, so does the weight of these animals. Weight can double between the months of May and September, from a spring weight of 3 to 3.5 kg to 5 to 6 kg in August. Total length ranges from 68 to 70 cm.

(Woods 1980,   http://www-nais.ccm.emr.ca/schoolnet/issues/risk/mammals/emammal/vanimrmt.html)

Range mass: 3 to 6 kg.

Range length: 68 to 70 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; heterothermic ; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: sexes alike

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Size

Length: 70 cm

Weight: 6500 grams

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Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: Males are larger than females.

Length:
Average: 668 mm
Range: 580-750 mm

Weight:
Range: 3-6.5 kg
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Ecology

Habitat

Comments: Subalpine herbaceous communities with steep slopes support the largest populations (Nagorsen 1987). Common tree species in these communities are Abies lasiocarpa, Tsuga mertensiana, and Chamaecyparis nootkatensis; shrubs and herbs include Vaccinium spp., Luetkea pectinata, Alnus sinuata, Erigeron peregrinus, Rhododendron albiflorum, Phlox diffusa, Anaphalis margaritacea, Aster foliaceus, Lupinus arcticus, and Pteridium aquilinum (Heard 1977, Milko 1984). Preferred lush forb/grass meadows are relatively rare on Vancouver Island; they generally are restricted to steep, south-facing slopes where avalanches and snow creep inhibit the growth of trees (Nagorsen 1987). Fire also creates favorable meadow habitat on subalpine slopes. Most marmot occurrences are on south- and west-facing slopes (Bryant and Janz 1996). Colonies have also been found in coniferous forest, logging clearcut slash, road banks, and cleared ski runs. In fact, half of the world's M. vancouverensis were living in clearcuts in 1997, compared to about 25% in the mid-1980s and none prior to high elevation logging that began in the late 1960s. Individual marmots occasionally take up residence in valley-bottom gardens (Munro 1985).

Marmots prefer areas with sufficient soil for burrowing, and with large rocks or stumps for burrowing under and for lookout sites. Burrows are usually below rocks in or near meadows. Young are born in underground burrows.

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Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
Subalpine herbaceous communities with steep slopes support the largest populations (Nagorsen 1987). Common tree species in these communities are Abies lasiocarpa, Tsuga mertensiana, and Chamaecyparis nootkatensis; shrubs and herbs include Vaccinium spp., Luetkea pectinata, Alnus sinuata, Erigeron peregrinus, Rhododendron albiflorum, Phlox diffusa, Anaphalis margaritacea, Aster foliaceus, Lupinus arcticus, and Pteridium aquilinum (Milko 1984). Preferred lush forb/grass meadows are relatively rare on Vancouver Island; they generally are restricted to steep, south-facing slopes where avalanches and snow creep inhibit the growth of trees (Nagorsen 1987). Fire also creates favourable meadow habitat on subalpine slopes. Most marmot occurrences are on south- and west-facing slopes (Bryant and Janz 1996). Colonies have also been found in coniferous forest, logging clearcut slash, road banks, and cleared ski runs. In fact, half of the world's M. vancouverensis were living in clearcuts in 1997, compared to about 25% in the mid-1980s and none prior to high elevation logging that began in the late 1960s. Individual marmots occasionally take up residence in valley-bottom gardens (Munro 1985).

Marmots prefer areas with sufficient soil for burrowing, and with large rocks or stumps for burrowing under and for lookout sites. Burrows are usually below rocks in or near meadows. Young are born in underground burrows.

M. vancouverensis is colonial. Colonies are relatively small and inhabit small habitat patches. Most are made up of one to three family units, and the average size before the young-of-the-year emerge is about eight individuals (Bryant 1990). Meta-populations of this species consist of a patchwork of colonies, each of which experiences periodic extinctions and recolonizations (Bryant and Janz 1996). Dispersal is a key ingredient of this pattern; the appearance of individual marmots in unusual habitats far from known colonies indicates thatM. vancouverensis is capable of extensive dispersal through forested lands (Munro 1985). Year-to-year persistence of family groups has been measured at 43% in natural sites and at 13% in logging slash sites (Bryant 1990). Most mortality apparently occurs during hibernation. Survivorship varied dramatically from year to year in Bryant's (1990) study, but a small sample size prevented any accurate determination of a mean rate.

Predation on M. vancouverensis has not been studied, but potential predators include Canis lupus, Martes americana, Gulo gulo, Felis concolor, Ursus americanus, Buteo jamaicensis, Aquila chrysaetos, Accipiter gentilis, and Bubo virginianus (Bryant 1990).

Grasses and sedges are the most important food in early spring; forbs make up the bulk of the summer diet. Small fruits are also eaten. Hibernates from early October to early May.

Systems
  • Terrestrial
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Vancouver Island marmots live in mountainous areas above 1,000 meters in elevation. They make burrows in open, steep meadows that face south-southwest. Steep land, along with frequent avalanches, clear snow and trees. The advantage of south-southwest facing slopes is that the sun melts more snow and helps vegetation grow, ensuring a good food supply for the marmots.

Marmota vancouverensis burrows can be large and intricate. They serve as a place to sleep and to take refuge from the cold and predators.

(Woods 1980,   http://www-nais.ccm.emr.ca/schoolnet/issues/risk/mammals/emammal/vanimrmt.html, Vancouver Island Marmot Rescue Team:   http://cons-dev.univ-lyon1.fr/MARMOTTE/MARMOT.EN/SAGA.EN/WORLD.MARMOT/Species/pframvanc.html)

Range elevation: 1000 (high) m.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: mountains

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Marmots tend to inhabit south or west-facing alpine meadows at altitudes of over 1000 m. They require deep soil for their burrows, and a wide variety of food plants (2). They may also occur in clear-cut areas (2).
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Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

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Trophic Strategy

Comments: Grasses and sedges are the most important food in early spring; forbs make up the bulk of the summer diet. Small fruits are also eaten. Seasonal changes reflect both the availability of plants and selection of species by marmots (Milko 1984). At the Haley Lake site, the most important plants are the forbs LUPINUS ARCTICUS, THALICTRUM OCCIDENTALE, LATHYRUS NEVADENSIS, CASTILLEJA MINIATA, C. HISPIDA, HERACLEUM LANATUM, PHLOX DIFFUSA, and various species of graminoids (Milko 1984). Does not store food for the winter, but accumulates body fat.

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Food Habits

The food supply of this herbivorous marmot varies seasonally. The diet consists mostly of grasses and foliage at all times of the year. In the spring, food is scarce and the diet is supplemented with berries preserved through the winter, roots, and bark. By late summer, foods such as flowers and berries are abundant. During this time, Vancouver Island marmots prepare for winter hibernation by increasing fat stores.

(Woods 1980)

Plant Foods: leaves; wood, bark, or stems; seeds, grains, and nuts; fruit; flowers

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

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Population Biology

Number of Occurrences

Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.

Estimated Number of Occurrences: 1 - 5

Comments: Since 1972, the species has been found at 47 sites on 15 mountains (Bryant and Janz 1996). However, only four occurrences are known to be extant.

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Global Abundance

1 - 50 individuals

Comments: Bryant (2005) reported the following: "Population counts began in 1979 and have continued, with variable coverage and intensity, until the present. Marmots expanded into new habitats created by clearcut logging of high-elevation primary forests during the 1980s; numbers increased to an estimated 300-350 individuals by 1986, with about half of these living in clearcuts (Bryant and Janz 1996). The temporary population expansion was followed by precipitous decline and near-extinction in the wild (Bryant 2000). Fewer than 130 marmots were known to be alive by 2004, including 93 in captivity and about 35 in the wild (unpublished minutes, Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team, November 2004)."

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General Ecology

M. VANCOUVERENSIS is colonial. Colonies are relatively small and inhabit small habitat patches. Most are made up of one to three family units, and the average size before the young-of-the-year emerge is about 8 individuals (Bryant 1990, Heard 1977). Meta-populations of this species consist of a patchwork of colonies, each of which experiences periodic extinctions and recolonizations (Bryant and Janz 1996). Dispersal is a key ingredient of this pattern; the appearance of individual marmots in unusual habitats far from known colonies indicates that M. VANCOUVERENSIS is capable of extensive dispersal through forested lands (Munro 1985). Year-to-year persistence of family groups has been measured at 43% in natural sites and at 13% in logging slash sites (Bryant 1990). Most mortality apparently occurs during hibernation. Survivorship varied dramatically from year to year in Bryant's (1990) study, but a small sample size prevented any accurate determination of a mean rate.

Predation on M. VANCOUVERENSIS has not been studied, but potential predators include CANIS LUPUS, MARTES AMERICANA, GULO GULO, FELIS CONCOLOR, URSUS AMERICANUS, BUTEO JAMAICENSIS, AQUILA CHRYSAETOS, ACCIPITER GENTILIS, and BUBO VIRGINIANUS (Heard 1977, Bryant 1990).

The only ectoparasites identified thus far are THRASSIS SPENCERI SPENCERI, a common flea of the MARMOTA CALIGATA group (Holland 1985), an unidentified species of IXODES tick (Heard 1977), and an unidentified ear mite (Bryant 1990). Helminthes found include the nematode BALYISASCARIS LAEVIS (Mace and Shepard 1981) and the cestodes DIANDYRA COMPOSITA (known from all Nearctic MARMOTA except M. MONAX) (Rausch and Rausch 1971) and D. VANCOUVERENSIS (known only from M. VANCOUVERENSIS) (Mace and Shepard 1981).

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Life History and Behavior

Cyclicity

Comments: Hibernates from early October to early May. Data are insufficient to assess sex or age difference in the length of hibernating period (Nagorsen 1987) (Nagorsen 1987). Juveniles emerge from the burrow in late June or July (Heard 1977).

Daily activity is bimodal with most activity in mornings and evenings. The bimodality is most evident in mid-summer; activity is reduced when temperatures exceed 20 C and the time spent in the burrow at midday is correlated directly with maximum daily temperature (Nagorsen 1987).

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Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
12.1 (high) years.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 12.1 years (captivity) Observations: One wild born specimen was about 12.1 years of age when it died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005). Maximum longevity could be underestimated, though.
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Reproduction

There have been no comprehensive studies on the reproductive biology. In closely-related species, mating occurs above ground during the first 3 weeks after spring emergence, and the gestation period is 28-33 days (Nagorsen 1987). Observations suggest that M. VANCOUVERENSIS is essentially monogamous within a given reproductive season. Young first appear above ground in late June or July, probably disperse after two years; they do not breed until at least 3 years of age; mean age of first reproduction is probably closer to 4 years (Bryant 1990). Females generally produce young biennially or at greater intervals. However, one female produced young in consecutive years (Bryant 1990). Litter size at emergence varies between 2 and 5. At Haley Lake, Heard (1977) observed a mean size of 3.0 (n=5) and Milko (1984) observed means of 4.6 (n=5) in 1981 and 2.7 (n=6) in 1982. In his studies of four different colonies over 4 years, Bryant (1990) observed a mean litter size of 3.14 (n=13); colonies at "natural" sites had a mean litter size of 2.89 (n=9) and colonies at logging slash sites had a mean litter size of 3.60 (n=4). Fecundity (expressed as the total number of young produced per adult-female-year) was 0.96 at "natural" sites and 1.87 at slash sites. However, because of the high disappearance rate of adult females from slash sites, only 2 adult-female-years represented non-reproductive females, and thus the resulting fecundity rate is almost certainly overestimated. More research is obviously needed. Although the maximum age in the wild is at least six years, the average female lifelong reproductive contribution may be only two litters (Bryant 1990).

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Vancouver Island marmots reach sexual maturity at about 3 years of age, although most females do not reproduce until 4 or 5. They are believed to be monogamous and births usually occur every other year. Gestation is approximately 1 month and litters of 3 are typically born. However, litters of 4 to 5 are also common. Mating is believed to occur underground and infants emerge from their burrows in late June to early July.

(  http://www-nais.ccm.emr.ca/schoolnet/issues/risk/mammals/emammal/vanimrmt.html; Vancouver Island Marmot Rescue Team:   http://cons-dev.univ-lyon1.fr/MARMOTTE/MARMOT.EN/SAGA.EN/WORLD.MARMOT/Species/pframvanc.html)

Breeding interval: These marmots apparently breed every other year.

Range number of offspring: 3 to 5.

Average number of offspring: 3.

Average gestation period: 1 months.

Range age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 3 (low) years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 4-5 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); fertilization ; viviparous

Average gestation period: 30 days.

Average number of offspring: 3.3.

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Molecular Biology and Genetics

Molecular Biology

Statistics of barcoding coverage: Marmota vancouverensis

Barcode of Life Data Systems (BOLDS) Stats
Public Records: 0
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
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Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled

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NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled

Reasons: Small range on Vancouver Island, British Columbia; fewer than 100 individuals remaining in only a few occurrences; population has declined significantly in last decade, even in the core range.

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IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
CR
Critically Endangered

Red List Criteria
A2ac; B2ab(i,ii,iv,v); D

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2013

Assessor/s
Nagorsen, D.W. & NatureServe (Cannings, S. & Hammerson, G.)

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. & Koprowski, J.

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Critically Endangered because in 2004 it was estimated there were only 35 individuals in one location left in the wild, and its area of occupancy is less than 10 km², and there has been extensive clear cutting of its forest habitat. A population reduction of greater than 80% over the past 18 years (three generations) has been observed. A quantitative analysis gives the probability of extinction of at least 50% in 17.1 years. (see Erratum below)


Erratum: Since this assessment was published in 2008, IUCN has attempted to confirm the source of the statement "a quantitative analysis gives the probability of extinction of at least 50% in 17.1 years". The exact source of this information has not been confirmed and the quantitative analysis referred to has not been provided to IUCN to check that this supports the use of criterion E. Therefore IUCN cannot confirm that criterion E was applied appropriately for this species and this criterion has now been removed from this assessment.

History
  • 2000
    Endangered
  • 1996
    Endangered
  • 1994
    Endangered
    (Groombridge 1994)
  • 1990
    Endangered
    (IUCN 1990)
  • 1988
    Endangered
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1988)
  • 1986
    Endangered
    (IUCN Conservation Monitoring Centre 1986)
  • 1982
    Endangered
    (Thornback and Jenkins 1982)
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Current Listing Status Summary

Status: Endangered
Date Listed: 01/23/1984
Lead Region: Foreign (Region 10) 
Where Listed: Entire


Population detail:

Population location: Entire
Listing status: E

For most current information and documents related to the conservation status and management of Marmota vancouverensis , see its USFWS Species Profile

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Marmota vancouverensis is an extremely endangered species that has been protected under the British Columbia Wildlife Act since 1980. Today its population is 50 to 60% lower than it was a decade ago. Currently, estimates put the population at around 150 marmots. There are multiple factors that may be responsible for this decline in population. Included are deforestation, geographic isolation, a high infant mortality rate, and the scarceness of natural habitat.

Interestingly, even though Vancouver island marmots live in treeless meadows, logging and the destruction of forests for things such as ski slopes still present a probable cause for the shrinking population. Cleared lands have been found to attract marmots. However, these areas provide poor habitat. Infant mortality, which normally claims 45% of infants during their first winter, has been found to reach 61% in marmots living in areas cleared by logging. It is also believed that logging increases threats of predation by allowing predators easier movement. Thus, artificially cleared areas draw in marmots to what may be unsuitable land.

Living in mountains may also cause the problem of geographic isolation. Marmots living on different mountains are not able to interbreed, which causes reduced genetic variability and increases the chance of inbreeding.

Currently there are intense efforts to save this species. The WWF is promoting research and the preservation of this marmot's habitat. A Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team has also been formed. This organization's plans to save the Vancouver island marmot include continued research, captive breeding, and increasing the public's awareness of the situation. One of their goals is to increase the Vancouver island marmot population to 400 to 600 marmots.

(  http://www-nais.ccm.emr.ca/schoolnet/issues/risk/mammals/emammal/vanimrmt.html 

http://www.wcmc.org.uk/species/data/species_sheets/vanismar.htm

http://www.wwfcanada.org/facts/vimarm.html, Vancouver Island Marmot Rescue Team:

http://cons-dev.univ-lyon1.fr/MARMOTTE/MARMOT.EN/SAGA.EN/WORLD.MARMOT/Species/pframvanc.html)

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: appendix i

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: critically endangered

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Status

Classified as Endangered (EN-C2b, D) on the IUCN Red List 2002 (1).
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Status

Endangered.
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Global Short Term Trend: Relatively stable (=10% change)

Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 50-70%

Comments: Population trends are difficult to determine because estimates of numbers and sizes of colonies before the 1970s are not available and only one or two relatively thorough censuses have been done (these only in the central part of the range). Numbers of adults were above average during the early 1980s and were reported as near or below average since 1990 by Bryant and Janz (1996). Recent data indicate a significant decline during the 1990s. Data for 1997 indicated a 60% decline in numbers during the past decade and a similar reduction in geographic range in the last several decades (Bryant et al. 2002).

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Population

Population
Bryant (2005) reported the following: "Population counts began in 1979 and have continued, with variable coverage and intensity, until the present. Marmots expanded into new habitats created by clearcut logging of high-elevation primary forests during the 1980s; numbers increased to an estimated 300-350 individuals by 1986, with about half of these living in clearcuts (Bryant and Janz 1996). The temporary population expansion was followed by precipitous decline and near-extinction in the wild (Bryant 2000). Fewer than 130 marmots were known to be alive by 2004, including 93 in captivity and about 35 in the wild (unpublished minutes, Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team, November 2004)."

Since 1972, the species has been found at 47 sites on 15 mountains (Bryant and Janz 1996). However, only four occurrences are known to be extant.

Population trends are difficult to determine because estimates of numbers and sizes of colonies before the 1970s are not available and only one or two relatively thorough censuses have been done (these only in the central part of the range). Numbers of adults were above average during the early 1980s and were reported as near or below average since 1990 by Bryant and Janz (1996). Recent data indicate a significant decline during the 1990s. Data for 1997 indicated a 60% decline in numbers during the past decade and a similar reduction in geographic range in the last several decades (Bryant et al. 2002).

A thorough and systematic inventory of all of Vancouver Island, especially the western and northern mountains, is needed to determine the actual present status.

Population Trend
Decreasing
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Threats

Degree of Threat: C : Not very threatened throughout its range, communities often provide natural resources that when exploited alter the composition and structure over the short-term, or communities are self-protecting because they are unsuitable for other uses

Comments: Logging activities adjacent to colonies have created temporarily attractive habitat to marmots and have undoubtedly resulted in an increase in marmot populations. Bryant (1990), however, feared that logging clearcuts may be deleterious in the long run; there is evidence that, although they provide attractive summer habitat, they offer poor conditions for successful hibernation. They may thus act as "sinks" preventing dispersing marmots from reaching adjacent mountain ridges (Bryant 1996). This would decrease genetic outcrossing as well as preventing former colony sites from being recolonized. More research is needed. Bryant (1990) concluded that the known population of M. vancouverensis is not viable using existing criteria.

Bryant and Page (2005) concluded that predation was the proximate cause of recent declines in wild Vancouver Island marmot populations, that losses were highly concentrated in late summer, and that previous studies exaggerated the importance of winter mortality. We suggest that high predation rates were associated with forestry and altered predator abundance and hunting patterns.

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Major Threats
No obvious threats have been identified, although long-term environmental changes, prehistoric hunting, and recent forestry activities could have impacted populations. Predation on so small a population is considered as a significant threat.

Logging activities adjacent to colonies have created temporarily attractive habitat to marmots and have undoubtedly resulted in an increase in marmot populations. Bryant (1990), however, feared that logging clearcuts may be deleterious in the long run; there is evidence that, although they provide attractive summer habitat, they offer poor conditions for successful hibernation. They may thus act as "sinks" preventing dispersing marmots from reaching adjacent mountain ridges (Bryant 1996). This would decrease genetic outcrossing as well as preventing former colony sites from being recolonized. More research is needed. Bryant (1990) concluded that the known population of M. vancouverensis is not viable using existing criteria.

Bryant and Page (2005) concluded that predation was the proximate cause of recent declines in wild Vancouver Island marmot populations, that losses were highly concentrated in late summer, and that previous studies exaggerated the importance of winter mortality. We suggest that high predation rates were associated with forestry and altered predator abundance and hunting patterns.
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Natural successional processes are probably responsible for the original scarcity of this species, through tree encroachment in the alpine meadows it inhabits. The main causes of the recent severe decline are thought to be the disruption of the habitat due to logging activities, weather fluctuations and increases in deer numbers, which can cause an influx of predators. (4).
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Management

Management Requirements: Three management plans have been put together regarding M. VANCOUVERENSIS. The first public draft of Munro et al. (1983) soon evolved into the plan of Munro et al. (1985). This plan's goal is "to establish and maintain the population of Vancouver Island marmots at a level and distribution that provides a reasonable likelihood of long-term survival of the species." The six specific objectives are to (1) ensure that six distinct reproducing populations are in existence by 1985 and ten by 1990, (2) secure habitat for key marmot colonies and prevent alienation and alteration of known marmot habitat, (3) maintain one small captive breeding colony, [4 is missing], (5) encourage and support approved scientific research, and (6) encourage public participation in various aspects of the program and to keep the public informed of the process. Proposed actions are described under each objective. In 1990, the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team published a draft of its recovery plan (V.I.M.R.T. 1990, Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team 1990). As they pointed out, designing a recovery plan for M. VANCOUVERENSIS is difficult because causes of colony disappearance and initiation have not been positively identified, and the causes for the limited range and numbers of this species are not fully understood. The situation is further complicated by the lack of a complete inventory of much of Vancouver Island.

The population objectives for management of this species are to (1) monitor the existing population and try to maintain it at not less than 200 animals within the area of current distribution, (2) establish a second population, if necessary, with a centre of distribution geographically isolated from the centre of distribution of the existing population, (3) establish a third population, if necessary, north of Alberni inlet if sufficient habitat is available. Downlisting of M. VANCOUVERENSIS to threatened status will occur when objective 2 is met; downlisting to vulnerable status will occur when objective 3 is met.

MANAGEMENT ACTIVITIES: 1. Monitoring is needed, especially of survivorship and reproduction in known populations, using mark-recapture studies. 2. A complete, systematic inventory is essential to determine habitat suitability and marmot status throughout Vancouver Island. 3. Research is needed in the following areas: dispersal characteristics, hibernacula requirements, and translocation techniques. 4. Habitat acquisition and management. 5. Translocation, reintroduction, and captive breeding may be the most effective means of achieving recovery objectives if inventories do not find significant numbers of new colonies. At present, there are insufficient grounds to support the establishment of a captive breeding colony.

Funding, of course, is essential to the success of any of these aspects of management and that available in 1990 was not sufficient to proceed with any but the most basic of the monitoring tasks. The Nature Trust of British Columbia has established an interest-bearing Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Account; all donations will be acknowledged with tax receipts.

Biological Research Needs: Detailed research is needed on dispersal characteristics, hibernacula requirements, and survivorship and reproduction in natural and logging clearcut habitats.

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Global Protection: Few (1-3) occurrences appropriately protected and managed

Comments: One occurrence is partially protected by an Ecological Reserve and a Critical Wildlife Area (Wildlife Management Area).

Needs: Key marmot colonies should be protected by designation as Wildlife Management Areas or by landowner agreements. The draft recovery plan (Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team 1990) states that "current known population size and distribution, together with available genetic and demographic data, suggest that direct management may be required to reduce the vulnerability of the species to extinction. However, a complete inventory may show intensive management is not essential and therefore a high priority."

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Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
It is listed as Endangered under the United States Endangered Species Act (23Jan1984) and by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) it is listed as Endangered (01 May 2000).

There is a recovery plan that recommends captive breeding and introductions as a means of restoring the species. One occurrence is partially protected by an Ecological Reserve and a Critical Wildlife Area (Wildlife Management Area).

Key marmot colonies should be protected by designation as Wildlife Management Areas or by landowner agreements. The draft recovery plan (Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team 1990) states that "current known population size and distribution, together with available genetic and demographic data, suggest that direct management may be required to reduce the vulnerability of the species to extinction. However, a complete inventory may show intensive management is not essential and therefore a high priority."

Detailed research is needed on dispersal characteristics, hibernacula requirements, and survivorship and reproduction in natural and logging clearcut habitats.
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Conservation

The Vancouver Island marmot gained legal protection under the British Columbia Wildlife Act in 1980, and a recovery team was set up in 1988 to devise a Recovery Plan (2). A captive breeding programme is now underway with the help of Toronto Zoo (3) and reintroductions are planned.
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Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Uses

Comments: M. VANCOUVERENSIS has no human or economic uses except perhaps as an attraction for tourists and naturalists to visit its habitat. At present this use is low because of difficult access.

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Wikipedia

Vancouver Island marmot

The Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) naturally occurs only in the high mountains of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. This particular marmot species is large compared to some other marmots, and most other rodents. Marmots as a group are the largest members of the squirrel family, with weights of adults varying from 3 to 7 kg depending on age and time of year.[2]

Although endemic to Vancouver Island, Marmota vancouverensis now also resides successfully at several captive breeding centres across Canada as well as several sites on Vancouver Island at which local extinction was observed during the 1990s.[3][4] This is the result of an ongoing recovery program designed to prevent extinction and restore self-sustaining wild populations of this uniquely Canadian species.[5][6]

Description[edit]

Vancouver Island marmot skull

The Vancouver Island marmot is typical of alpine-dwelling marmots in general form and physiology. However this species can be easily distinguished from other marmots by its rich, chocolate brown fur and contrasting white patches. No other marmot species naturally occurs on Vancouver Island.[7] The Vancouver Island marmot, as its name suggests, is geographically restricted to Vancouver Island, and apparently evolved rapidly since retreat of the Cordilleran glaciation some 10,000 years before present.[8] Marmota vancouverensis is distinct from other marmot species in terms of morphology,[9] genetics,[10] behaviour,[11] and ecology.[12]

An adult Vancouver Island marmot typically measures 65 to 70 centimetres from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. (Picture holding a large housecat.) However, weights show tremendous seasonal variation. An adult female that weighs 3 kilograms when she emerges from hibernation in late April can weigh 4.5 to 5.5 kg by the onset of hibernation in late September or October. Adult males can be even larger, reaching weights of over 7 kg. In general, marmots lose about one-third of their body mass during the six-and-a-half months in which they hibernate during winter.[citation needed]

Life history, habitat characteristics and population trends[edit]

Like all marmots, Vancouver Island marmots live in burrows and are obligate herbivores. Vancouver Island marmots have been documented to eat over 30 species of food plants, generally shifting from grasses in the early spring to plants such as lupines in late summer.[13] Marmots hibernate for various amounts of time depending upon site characteristics and annual weather conditions. Wild Vancouver Island marmots hibernate, on average, for about 210 days of the year, generally from late September or early October until late April or early May. They generally hibernate for shorter periods in captivity.[14]

Vancouver Island marmots typically first breed at three or four years of age, although some have been observed to breed as two-year-olds.[15] Marmots breed soon after emergence from hibernation. Gestation is thought to be approximately 30–35 days. Litter sizes average 3-4 pups, and weaned pups generally emerge above ground for the first time in early July.

Systematic marmot surveys have been conducted since 1979, with variable count effort and coverage of the Island. Suitable meadows are rare[16] compared to nearby regions of the British Columbian mainland or the Olympic peninsula of Washington State; habitat scarceness is believed to be the primary reason for the rarity of this marmot species. Most marmots live above 1000 metres elevation in meadows that face south to west. It is believed that populations expanded during the 1980s, Some natural meadows may be kept clear of invading trees by snow-creep and periodic avalanches or fire.

Conservation status[edit]

Causes of marmot population declines are multiple. Over the long term (i.e., periods involving thousands of years), climate changes have caused both increases and declines of open alpine habitat that constitute suitable marmot habitat.[17] Over more recent time scales, population dynamics may have been influenced by short-term weather patterns and systematic changes in the landscape. In particular, forest clearcutting at low elevations[18] likely altered dispersal patterns. Sub-adult marmots typically disperse from the subalpine meadows in which they were born. Dispersal involves traversing lowland conifer forests and valleys to other subalpine meadows. However, clearcutting has provided marmots with new open areas which constitute habitat. Unfortunately, rapid forest regeneration makes such man-made habitats unsuitable over a few years. One study concluded that clearcuts therefore act as a kind of population "sink" in which long-term reproduction and survival rates are reduced to the point of unsustainability[19] One 2005 study concluded the main cause of recent decline to be predation "associated with forestry and altered predator abundance and hunting patterns".[20] Major predators upon Vancouver Island marmots include Golden eagles, cougars and wolves.[21]

The population crash may also be due to the Allee effect, named after zoologist Warder Clyde Allee. Allee proposed that social animals require a critical mass in order to survive, because survival requires group activities such as warning of predators and migration. A decline below that threshold precipates rapid decline. Ecologist Justin Brashares suggests that at least some of the marmot's group behavior is learned, so that the loss of marmot "culture" has caused them to become more solitary, and interact aggressively rather than cooperatively when they do encounter each other.[22]

The endangered Vancouver Island marmot remains one of the world's rarest mammals. In 1997 there were so few numbers of marmots on Vancouver Island that managers took the bold step of capturing some to create a "genetic lifeboat" and therefore create the possibility of restoring wild populations. The first marmots went to Toronto Zoo in 1997, but this initial effort was quickly followed by efforts made by the Calgary Zoo and Mountainview Conservation and Breeding Centre in Langley, BC. The Marmot Recovery Foundation also built a dedicated marmot facility on Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island to further facilitate captive breeding and pre release conditioning. The fundamental idea was to produce marmots in a fashion that would facilitate their eventual return to the wild.

In 1998 a new model for species recovery was born involving the government, private industry and public donors. A census in late 2003 resulted in a count of only 21 wild marmots known to be present on Vancouver Island. After these findings, marmots were released from captivity in different places to try to get the population back up to a reasonable number.

These marmots are still classified as endangered.[23] The cumulative captive breeding program has steadily grown, with 130 individuals in captivity (2010) and 442 weaned pups born in captivity since 2000. A number of individuals have been released to Strathcona Provincial Park, Mount Cain, Mount Washington and more southern mountains. From 2003-2010 the Marmot Recovery Foundation and the British Columbia Ministry of Environment have released 308 marmots back into the wild.[24] More releases are expected in the upcoming years to increase the wild population, estimated at 250-300 individuals in 2010, and 350-400 individuals in 2013.

Related species[edit]

Based on genetic analyses, the closest relatives of the Vancouver Island Marmot are the Hoary Marmot (Marmota caligata) and the Olympic Marmot (Marmota olympus).[25] There is some debate, on genetic grounds, about which of the two nearby mainland species is most closely related to the Vancouver Island marmot or when marmots first arrived on the island.[26] The differences in DNA observed between species is small. In 2009, Nagorsen and Cardini identified, from museum specimens, substantial physical differences between species that can only be explained by rapid evolution in a relatively isolated island context.[27] .

Use as symbol[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Nagorsen, D.W. & NatureServe (Cannings, S. & Hammerson, G.) (2013). "Marmota vancouverensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 9 May 2014. 
  2. ^ Barash D.P. 1989. Marmots: social behavior and ecology. Stanford University Press, Stanford
  3. ^ Aaltonen, K, A.A. Bryant, J.A. Hosetetler and, M. K. Oli. 2010. Reintroducing endangered Vancouver Island marmots: Survival and cause-specific mortality rates of captive-born versus wild-born individuals. Biological Conservation 142:2181–2190 "see here for pdf version". doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2009.04.019. Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  4. ^ Bryant, A.A. 2007. Recovery efforts for Vancouver Island marmots, Canada. In: Soorae PS (ed) Re-introduction news, vol 26. IUCN/ SSC Re-Introduction Specialist Group, Abu Dhabi, pp 30–32. "see here for pdf version". Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  5. ^ Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team. 2008. Recovery Strategy for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in British Columbia. Prepared for the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, BC. 25 pp."see here for pdf version". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  6. ^ Janz Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team. 2004. National Recovery Plan for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in British Columbia. Prepared for the B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, BC. 25 pp."see here for pdf version". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  7. ^ Nagorsen, D.W. 1987. Marmota vancouverensis. Mammalian Species. 270:1-5 "10.2307/3503862". doi:10.2307/3503862. 
  8. ^ Nagorsen, D.W.and A. Cardini. 2009. Tempo and mode of evolutionary divergence in modern and Holocene Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis). Jour Zool Syst Evol Res. 47:258–267"10.1111/j.1420-9101.2007.01398.x". doi:10.1111/j.1439-0469.2008.00503.x. 
  9. ^ Cardini, A., Thorington, R.W. Jr, and Polly, P.D. 2007. Evolutionary acceleration in the most endangered mammal of Canada: speciation and divergence in the Vancouver Island marmot (Rodentia, Sciuridae). Journal of Evolutionary Biology. 20(5):1833-1846 "10.1111/j.1420-9101.2007.01398.x". doi:10.1111/j.1420-9101.2007.01398.x. 
  10. ^ Kruckenhauser, L., W. Pinsker, E. Haring and W. Arnold. 1999. Marmot phylogeny revisited: molecular evidence for a diphyletic origin of sociality. Journal of Zoology, Systematics and Evolutionary Research. 37:49-56 "10.1046/j.1439-0469.1999.95100.x". doi:10.1046/j.1439-0469.1999.95100.x. 
  11. ^ Blumstein D.T. 1999. Alarm calling in three species of marmots. Behaviour. 136:731–757 "10.1163/156853999501540". doi:10.1163/156853999501540. 
  12. ^ Bryant, A.A. 1998. Metapopulation ecology of Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis). PhD dissertation, University of Victoria (Victoria, BC). 125 pp.
  13. ^ Martell, A.M. and R.J. Milko. 1986. Seasonal diets of Vancouver Island marmots. Canadian Field-Naturalist. 100: 241-245.
  14. ^ Bryant, A.A., and M. McAdie. 2003. Hibernation ecology of wild and captive Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis). Pages 159–166 in R. Ramousse, D. Allaine and M. Le Berre (editors): Adaptive Strategies and Diversity in Marmots. International Marmot Network, Lyon, France."see here for PDF version". Retrieved 2009-07-14. 
  15. ^ Bryant A.A. 1996. Reproduction and persistence of Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis) in natural and logged habitats. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 74:678–687"10.1139/z96-076". doi:10.1139/z96-076. 
  16. ^ Milko, R.J., and A.M. Bell. 1986. Subalpine meadow vegetation of south central Vancouver Island. Canadian Journal of Botany. 64: 815-821"10.1139/b86-106". doi:10.1139/b86-106. 
  17. ^ Hebda, R.J., O. McDadi and D. Mazzucchi. 2005. History of habitat and the decline of the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis). Proceedings of the Species at Risk 2004 Pathways to Recovery Conference, Victoria, B.C. Edited by T.D. Hooper."see here for PDF version". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  18. ^ Wilson, E.O: "The Future of Life", p. 52. Little, Brown, 2002
  19. ^ Bryant A.A. 1996. Reproduction and persistence of Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis) in natural and logged habitats. Canadian Journal of Zoology. 74:678–687"10.1139/z96-076". doi:10.1139/z96-076. 
  20. ^ Bryant, A.A., and R.E. Page. 2005. Timing and causes of mortality in the endangered Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis). Canadian Journal of Zoology. 83: 674-682. "10.1139/z05-055". doi:10.1139/z05-055. 
  21. ^ Aaltonen, K., A.A. Bryant, J.A. Hostetler and M.K. Oli. 2009. Reintroducing endangered Vancouver Island marmots: Survival and cause-specific mortality rates of captive-born versus wild-born individuals. Biological Conservation. In press. "10.1016/j.biocon.2009.04.019". doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2009.04.019. 
  22. ^ Platt, John. "Marmot meltdown averted: Vancouver Island species on the brink of extinction regaining social bonds". Scientific American. Retrieved October 27, 2012. 
  23. ^ COSEWIC. 2008. COSEWIC assessment and updated status report on the Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in Canada. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, Ottawa. "see here for PDF version". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  24. ^ "Toronto Zoo > Conservation > Mammals". Retrieved 2009-09-22. 
  25. ^ Steppan, S.J., Akhverdyan, M.R., Lyapunova, E.A., Fraser, D.G., Vorontsov, N.N., Hoffmann, R.S., and Braun, M.J. 1999. Molecular phylogeny of the marmots (Rodentia: Sciuridae): Tests of evolutionary and biogeographic hypotheses. Systematic Biology. 48: 715-734 "10.1080/106351599259988". doi:10.1080/106351599259988. 
  26. ^ Kruckenhauser et al: Kruckenhauser L, Pinsker W, Haring E, Arnold W (1999) Marmot phylogeny revisited: molecular evidence for a diphyletic origin of sociality. J Zool Syst Evol Res 37:49-46 "10.1046/j.1439-0469.1999.95100.x". doi:10.1046/j.1439-0469.1999.95100.x. 
  27. ^ Nagorsen D., Cardini A., 2009. Tempo and mode of evolutionary divergence in modern and Holocene Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota vancouverensis) (Mammalia, Rodentia). Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research, 47: 258–267.

Further reading[edit]

  • Bryant, Andrew, with Don Blood. "Vancouver Island marmot". Retrieved 14 July 2009. . Species at Risk series, B.C. Ministry of Environment, Victoria, February 1999. 6 pp.
  • Champan, Joseph A., and George A. Feldhamer, eds. Wild Mammals of North America. The John Hopkins UP, 1982.
  • Markels, Alex. "'Last stand". Retrieved 14 July 2009.  Audubon Magazine, May 2004.
  • Michael, Huchins, ed. "Vancouver Island Marmot." Grzimek's Animal Life Encyclopidia. 16 vols. Gale, 2004.
  • Thorington, R. W. Jr. and R. S. Hoffman. 2005. Family Sciuridae. Pp. 754–818 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  • Wilson, Don E., and Sue Ruff, eds. The Smithsonian Book of North American Mammals. Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1999.
  • "Vancouver Island Marmot." World Book Encyclopedia. 13th ed. Chicago: World Book Incorporated, 2008.
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Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Marmota vancouverensis formerly was regarded as a subspecies of M. marmota by some authors. It was recognized as a distinct species by Jones et al. (1992), Hoffmann et al. (in Wilson and Reeder 1993), and Thorington and Hoffmann (in Wilson and Reeder 2005).

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