How to Target the Marmot

 

The Vancouver island marmot, as it’s name indicates, naturally occurs only in the high mountains of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. They are one of the largest marmot species and are easily identified by their unique appearance. However, this endemic Vancouver Island animal is one of the most critically endangered mammals in the world (All About Marmots, 2008).

marmot

In the mid-1980’s, the marmot population on the island was estimated to be over 300 individuals. Sadly, by 2001, their numbers had declined to less than 75 animals (Government of Canada, 2008). This decline is due to a multitude of factors, including human activities, disease, and climate change (affecting where they live and reproduce since they typically live in high-elevation environments); unlike many other cases of endangered species, habitat loss and destruction does not appear to have been a factor (Bryant and Blood, 1999). The major threat to the marmot is predation – at least 80% of mortality is attributable to predation, especially by wolves, cougars, and golden eagles (Bryant and Blood, 1999). The cougar and wold numbers on Vancouver Island have increased dramatically since the 1980’s, which doesn’t help the situation.

There has been many previous actions that groups and organizations have taken in order to help the marmot populations increase, including re-introductions.A study by Aaltonen and colleagues focus on the success rate of captive-born marmots into natural habitats in order to determine whether and to what extent survival and mortality rates of captive-born marmots differ from those of their wild-born counterparts (Aaltonen at el. 2009). By using radio-telemetry and mark-resighting methods, they estimated seasonal and annual survival rates of the marmot to compare the survival and mortality rates of captive-born marmots versus wild-born marmots. They also focused on the effect of age-at-release on survival (Aaltonen et al. 2009).

Their results indicated that annual survival of captive-born marmots released into the wild was low compared to wild-born marmots; marmots released as 2-year-old or older survived more successfully than those released as yearlings (Aaltonen et al. 2009). They found that annual survival rate was lowest for pups and highest for yearlings and adults. Forensic evidence suggested that predation was the most important cause of mortality. What their results indicated was that by delaying the release of captive-born marmots until 2 years of age, their probability of survival in the wild was increased, and thus will improve the success of the release program (Aaltonen et al. 2009).

The Vancouver Island marmot is still listed as endangered today, and their only chance for survival is ultimately up to us. By taking the results of the discussed study and re-introducing marmots at a later age, we might see marmot populations dramatically increase, making the cost associated with rearing marmots for an extra year well worth it.

 

Word count: 446

Aaltonen, K., Bryant, A., Hostetler, J., Oli, M. 2009. Reintroducing endangered Vancouver Island marmots: Survival and cause-specific mortality rates of captive-born versus wild-born individuals. Biol Cons, 142(10): 2181-2190. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2009.04.019

All About Marmots. [Internet]. The Vancouver Island Marmot [cited March 23 2016]. Available from https://www.islandnet.com/~marmot/

Bryant, A. and Blood, D. 1999. Vancouver island marmot: Ministry of Environment. Available from http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/wld/documents/marmot.pdf

Government of Canada. [Internet]. Species at risk public registry: Vancouver island marmot [cited March 23 2016]. Available from http://www.registrelep-sararegistry.gc.ca/species/speciesDetails_e.cfm?sid=136

image: http://www.hinzie.com/writer/media/image/52135.jpg

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9 thoughts on “How to Target the Marmot

  1. With 75 individuals it seems like we’re at a fork in the road where the populations could stabilize or become extinct depending on what we do

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  2. Great blog! I think it’s interesting that they say habitat destruction and loss doesn’t play a factor. I imagine it would, as the marmots would have less places to hide from the increasing predator populations.

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  3. Wow only 75 individuals left, that’s crazy. It will be interesting to see if people releasing individuals at later ages helps or not. Hopefully it does, so that they don’t become extinct.

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  4. It’s an interesting case where a species is declining due to increased predation, and only minorly because of human mediated causes. If we aren’t causing the decline, how many resources should we allocate towards helping the population? Especially when there is a lack of funds in certain areas that we are definitely the main cause.

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  5. How does habitat loss not play a factor? It’s a tragedy that there are only 75 individuals left. I wonder what is an appropriate population number to sustain this population number with minimal human intervention.

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