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Vancouver Island Marmot

Vancouver Island Marmot

Marmota vancouverensis

Status Endangered
Listed January 23, 1984
Family Sciuridae (Squirrel)
Description Dark brown marmot.
Habitat Alpine meadows and talus slopes.
Food Plant matter.
Reproduction Litter of three.
Threats Logging, recreational development.
Range British Columbia, Canada

Description

Similar in appearance to the hoary marmot (Marmota caligata ) and the common woodchuck, the Vancouver Island marmot (M. vancouverensis ) attains a head and body length of 18 in (45.7 cm). The tail length is about 10 in (25 cm). Overall color is dark brown with little variation.

Behavior

The diurnal Vancouver Island marmot feeds on various herbaceous plants, flowers, seeds, and fruits. It gathers into colonies of six to 10 animals and is only active for about four months of the year. It goes into hibernation in September and emerges in late April or early May. A litter of three young is born in late spring or early summer.

Habitat

This marmot inhabits alpine meadows and steep talus slopes near the timberline at elevations of 3,280.8-6,561.7 ft (1,000-2,000 m). The steep slopes are cleared of snow by avalanches and provide early spring vegetation when other portions of the habitat are still covered in snow. The plant community is grassy and herbaceous.

Distribution

This Canadian marmot is endemic to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, and has been found nowhere else. Historically, colonies were known from 13 mountain peaks south of the Gold River.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s the Vancouver Island marmot was known from 11 active colonies at eight sites. Most colonies were located within a 7,415-acre area (3,000.7-hectare area) between Green Mountain and Butler Peak at the southern end of the island. One colony was found to the north on Mt. Washington. All sites were privately owned. The total population was estimated at less than 100 individuals in 1980.

Threats

The decline of the marmot population can be attributed to human intrusion into the habitat. Ski resort developmentsparticularly on Mt. Washington and Green Mountainhave eliminated several historic colonies and much suitable habitat. Logging may also have eliminated vital migration corridors, isolating some individuals and preventing inter-breeding of colonies. Once a colony is eliminated from a mountain peak, there is little chance that it will naturally recolonize the area.

Conservation and Recovery

This marmot has been protected from exploitation by the British Columbia Wildlife Act since 1973. Logging companies have reportedly begun to leave buffer zones between timbering areas and known marmot colonies. This is considered only a short-term conservation measure. The provincial government, the Federation of British Columbia Naturalists, and the Vancouver Island Marmot Preservation Committee are cooperating in the recovery of this species. Surveys are being conducted as funds become available, and naturalists hope to acquire land to establish a marmot refuge.

Contact

Canadian Wildlife Service
Environment Canada
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H3
Canada

References

Hawryzki, A. R., and M. Carpenter. 1978. "Vancouver Island Marmot." Wildlife Review 8 (8): 4-6.

Munro, W. T. 1978. "Status of the Vancouver Island Marmot in Canada." Report. Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Thornback, J., and M. Jenkins. 1982. The IUCN Mammal Red Data Book, Pt. 1. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources, Switzerland.

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