Species Profile

Vancouver Island Marmot

Scientific Name: Marmota vancouverensis
Taxonomy Group: Mammals
COSEWIC Range: British Columbia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: May 2019
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: B2ab(v); C2a(i); D1; E
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This endemic species is found only on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Since the last assessment in 2008, the species has demonstrated a rapid population increase and then a subsequent decline; there are currently an estimated 88–101 mature animals in the wild. Ongoing predation remains high and there are potential threats from inbreeding and climate change. A successful captive-breeding program and resulting population supplementation has been reduced. A population viability analysis suggests that there is a high probability of extinction if there are extended periods of low adult survival, as observed during previous and most recent declines, and there are relatively few captive-bred animals introduced into the extant wild colonies.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Endangered in April 1978. Status re-examined and confirmed Endangered in April 1997, May 2000, April 2008, and May 2019.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2003-06-05

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

Go to advanced search

Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Distribution and Population | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Vancouver Island Marmot

Vancouver Island Marmot Photo 1

Top

Description

The Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) is a colonial ground squirrel related to the hoary marmot M. caligata and Olympic marmot M. Olympus. It is notable for its chocolate brown fur, unique vocalizations, atypical skull characteristics, and highly social nature. (Updated 2017/05/25)

Top

Distribution and Population

The Vancouver Island marmot is endemic to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. Vancouver Island marmots apparently suffered a severe range contraction over the last several decades, although records are insufficient to elucidate when or why this occurred. Annual population surveys since 1979 indicate that marmot numbers at least doubled during the 1980s, with most of this increase occurring in new habitats created by logging of old-growth forests. A minimum of 235 marmots were counted in 1984, but it is likely that the population numbered 300-350 at this time, with most of it in man-made habitats. The population declined precipitously during the 1990s, with only ~70 individuals remaining in the wild by 1997. In 2007 there were about 50 wild-born marmots in the wild, plus a few dozen released marmots (not included in this assessment) and over 100 captive marmots, which are also not included in this assessment. (Updated 2017/05/25)

Top

Habitat

The natural habitat of Vancouver Island marmots consists of sub-alpine meadows, usually at 900-1500 metres above sea level. Such meadows are believed to have been created and maintained by avalanches, snow-creep or fire, or a combination of processes. Patches of natural habitat on Vancouver Island tend to be both smaller and located father apart than those occupied by marmots in the B.C. mainland or the Olympic peninsula. Vancouver Island marmots also use man-made habitats. Numerous colonization events occurred in habitats created by clearcut logging of high elevation forests, mining, and ski-run developments. (Updated 2017/05/25)

Top

Biology

M. vancouverensis is fossorial, herbivorous and hibernates, generally from early October through late April. Females may breed at age two, but most do not breed until age 3 or 4, producing litters of 3-4 pups every two years on average. Both sexes disperse, typically at age two. The maximum observed age is 10 years in the wild, 14 years in captivity. (Updated 2017/05/25)

Top

Threats

The natural habitat of Vancouver Island marmots is limited. Sub-alpine meadows are small (1-10 ha) and occur infrequently in the otherwise forested landscape. Recent pollen analysis suggests that marmot habitats were much more extensive several thousand years ago. Palaeontological and archaeological records of marmots are found well outside of their historical extent of occurrence. Habitat created by logging is only temporary as forest regeneration makes conditions unsuitable for marmots. All 10 colonies found in clearcuts during the 1980s and 1990s became extinct by 2000. The median colony longevity in clearcuts was 10 years (range = 5-19 years), which is about 2-3 marmot generations. The major current threat to Vancouver Island marmots is predation. At least 80% of marmot mortality since 1992 was attributable to predation, largely by wolves (Canis lupis), cougars (Puma concolor) and golden eagles (Aquila chrysaetos). Annual survival rates have declined since the 1980s, losses at individual colonies were often dramatic within single years, and colony-specific survival rates were spatially correlated. Given the small size of the current wild population, other threats include loss of genetic variation, stochastic demographic or weather effects, and inability to find a mate. (Updated 2017/05/25)

Top

Protection

Federal Protection

The Vancouver Island Marmot is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

Top

Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name National Recovery Plan for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis)
Status RENEW Publication

Name Recovery Strategy for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in Canada [Proposed]
Status First posting on SAR registry

Top

Recovery Team

Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team

  • Don Doyle - Chair/Contact - Government of BC
    Phone: 250-751-3219  Fax: 250-751-3208  Send Email

Top

Recovery Progress and Activities

Summary of Progress to Date Research and monitoring activities over the last 15 years have led to a solid understanding of the ecology, distribution, and limiting factors for the Vancouver Island Marmot in the wild. In the summer of 2004, the number of marmots in captivity and the wild topped 120, with the birth of 26 pups in all four breeding facilities. However, the Vancouver Island Marmot remains one of the most endangered species in Canada, with only 30 individuals existing in the wild. The Marmot Recovery Foundation, a public registered charity established in 1998, continues to make progress in fund-raising and enhancing public awareness, and as a result public support for Vancouver Island Marmot recovery is increasing. Summary of Research/Monitoring Activities Ongoing population monitoring studies, which began in the early 1990s, have led to a good understanding of population sizes and trends for the Vancouver Island Marmot. Results from more than 10-years of radio-telemetry studies indicate that the long-term survival of marmots is reduced in clear-cut areas, and that predation is an important mortality factor. Furthermore, a metapopulation study indicated that marmots do not colonize clear-cuts in proportion to their availability, but rather the clear-cuts act as a trap by diverting marmots to then settle nearby clear-cut areas instead of dispersing to their natural habitat. Other research has focused on collecting blood and fecal matter to test for Yersina and other potential pathogens that may be significantly contributing to Vancouver Island Marmot mortality. Reintroduction and captive-breeding methods, critical to the recovery of the Vancouver Island Marmot, continue to be developed and improved. A habitat suitability study, conducted in 1995, evaluated eight potential release sites and found that while all eight sites met the minimum criteria for the Vancouver Island Marmot, only one site rated as having “high potential”. Summary of Recovery Activities Captive breeding is currently underway at four facilities including the Toronto and Calgary zoos, a private breeding centre in Langley, British Columbia, and the Mount Washington breeding facility on Vancouver Island. The first reintroduction into natural sub-alpine habitat was unsuccessful: three of the four released animals were killed by predators, and the fourth was taken back into captivity. In the summer of 2004, nine more captive-bred animals were released: one was killed by a golden eagle, but the other eight survived and are currently in hibernation. To help ensure the survival of the reintroduced marmots, experimental non-lethal methods of preventing predator attacks, including the use of human shepherds, fencing and netting, have also been introduced. The core area of Vancouver Island Marmot habitat has been successfully protected within the Green-Haley reserve. http://www.marmots.org/

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

10 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in Canada (2019-12-17)

    Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) is a colonial marmot that is closely related to Hoary Marmot (M. caligata) and Olympic Marmot (M. olympus). It is notable for its chocolate brown fur, unique vocalizations, atypical skull characteristics, and highly social nature. It is one of only five endemic species of mammal in Canada. Note: This COSEWIC assessment was received by the Minister on October 15th, 2018.
  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in Canada (2008-08-28)

    The Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) is a colonial ground squirrel related to the hoary marmot M. caligata and Olympic marmot M. Olympus. It is notable for its chocolate brown fur, unique vocalizations, atypical skull characteristics, and highly social nature.
  • COSEWIC assessment and update status report on the Vancouver Island marmot Marmota vancouverensis in Canada (2000-05-01)

    The Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis), like other members of the genus, is fossorial, herbivorous and hibernates during winter. M. vancouverensis differs from other species in karyotype, skull characteristics, pelage and behaviour. It is similar to other alpine-dwelling marmots in its slow maturation, long life span, and complex social organization. M. vancouverensis persists despite a small and fragmented natural habitat base. It exhibits a "metapopulation" structure. The entire population consists of small colonies that occasionally form and become extinct.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Vancouver Island Marmot (2008-11-26)

    Fewer than 30 mature wild-born individuals of this Canadian endemic remain in the wild. Despite the apparent initial success of reintroductions, the wild population of this species remains extremely small and could be subject to stochastic events.  Ongoing predation remains high and there are potential threats from inbreeding and climate change.
  • Response Statement - Vancouver Island Marmot (2020) (2020-01-07)

    This endemic species is found only on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Since the last assessment in 2008, the species has demonstrated a rapid population increase and then a subsequent decline; there are currently an estimated 88–101 mature animals in the wild. Ongoing predation remains high and there are potential threats from inbreeding and climate change. A successful captive-breeding program and resulting population supplementation has been reduced. A population viability analysis suggests that there is a high probability of extinction if there are extended periods of low adult survival, as observed during previous and most recent declines, and there are relatively few captive-bred animals introduced into the extant wild colonies.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in Canada (2020-07-09)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change is the competent minister for the Vancouver Island Marmot and has prepared the federal component of this recovery strategy (Part 1), as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Province of British Columbia as per section 39(1) of SARA. SARA section 44 allows the Minister to adopt all or part of an existing plan for the species if it meets the requirements under SARA for content (sub-sections 41(1) or (2)). The Province of British Columbia provided the attached recovery plan for Vancouver Island Marmot (Part 2) as science advice to the jurisdictions responsible for managing the species in British Columbia. It was prepared in cooperation with Environment and Climate Change Canada.

Orders

  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 146, number 14, 2012) (2012-07-04)

    The purpose of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act is to add 18 species to Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List), and to reclassify 7 listed species, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of SARA. This amendment is made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and on consultations with governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the Canadian public.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 - 2008 (2008-08-28)

    2008 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species January 2020 (2020-01-07)

    COVID-19 and the consultations on the listing of species at risk As a result of the ongoing COVID 19 situation, it is not possible to have in-person meetings. Taking this into consideration, please note that consultation closing dates have been set for both the Normal and Extended consultations for the terrestrial species considered in this document. We will work to ensure that all the known, potentially affected parties have the opportunity to contribute to the consultations and that the consultation process is flexible and sensitive to the current context. If you wish to contribute, please submit your comments by April 2, 2021 for species undergoing normal consultations and by September 2, 2021 for species undergoing extended consultations. You may provide comments by email, letters, or through the online survey. The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 622 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments by May 7, 2020, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 7, 2020, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please visit the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry website at: The Minister of the Environment's Response to Species at Risk Assessments. To respond to survey questions, please go to the survey page.

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
Date modified: