The Recovery Strategy for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in British Columbia was prepared by the Ministry of Environment (B.C.) in 2008. An updated Recovery Strategy is currently under review, and is due to be released in 2017.
The Recovery Team is a partnership of scientists, researchers and technicians – nationally and internationally – that leverage scientific understanding of Vancouver Island marmot population recovery through collaborative research and animal management programs. The Recovery Team guides annual recovery objectives and evaluates and reports on Recovery Plan progress.
A rapid population decline in the mid 1990’s enforced the need for a single species approach to recovery. The Recovery Strategies since then have identified captive-breeding combined with the reintroduction of captive-born animals to the wild as the best hope for increasing Vancouver Island marmot populations within a reasonable period of time and reducing the risk of extinction.
The recovery goal is to establish a self-sustaining wild population of Vancouver Island marmots. Specifically, the goal calls for 400-600 marmots living in three metapopulations. The stipulation of three geographically-distinct populations is based on historic marmot distributions, and takes into account the water barriers (in particular, Buttle Lake, Alberni Inlet and Lake Cowichan) that will likely isolate many colonies from one another. The three planned recovery areas are the Nanaimo Lakes region, the Mt Washington-Forbidden Plateau region, and the western Strathcona Provincial Park region. The population goal is also based on the idea that sufficient natural habitat exists on Vancouver Island to support three metapopulations of 150-200 animals each.
- Prevent extinction of the species, and maximize the level of genetic variation maintained within the global population.
- Maintain marmots and natural behaviour in the wild.
- Leave no adult marmot in the wild without a potential mate.
Download the Recovery Strategy for the Vancouver Island Marmot.
Feasibility of Success
The Recovery Plan confirmed the ecological feasibility for a successful recovery by answering the following questions:
Are individuals capable of reproduction currently available to be released to the wild to improve the population growth rate or population abundance? Yes. A successful captive-breeding program is producing healthy marmots for reintroduction.
Is sufficient habitat available to support the species or could it be made available through habitat management or restoration? Yes. Natural habitats capable of supporting the recovery population target have been identified, some within the protected areas of Strathcona Provincial Park, Schoen Lake Provincial Park as well as land set aside by forest companies at Green Mountain Critical Wildlife Management Area and Haley Lake Ecological Reserve.
Can significant threats to the species or its habitat be avoided or mitigated through recovery actions? Yes. Development pressures in natural habitat are few. In the past, marmots successfully colonized man-made habitats, which suggests the problem of climate-induced tree invasion could be easily mitigated. Predation rates have not increased in proportion to wild population growth.
Do the necessary recovery techniques exist? Yes. The captive-breeding program has been highly successful. Behaviour, survival and reproductive rates of captive-born animals have been similar to those of wild-born marmots once they are established in the wild (have survived one or more wild hibernations).
A Population and Habitat Viability Assessment by the IUCN in 2015 confirmed that recovery of the Vancouver Island marmot to self-sustaining levels in the wild is viable through continued captive breeding and habitat enhancement. Download a copy of the Vancouver Island Marmot Population and Habitat Viability Assessment Workshop Final Report here.