Recovery Efforts

Recovering a Wild Population
The mission of the Marmot Recovery Foundation is to recover the wild population of the Vancouver Island Marmot. Significant progress has been made, but much work remains before this species will be secure in the wild.

The Recovery Strategy for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) in British Columbia  was prepared by the Ministry of Environment (B.C.) 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.

Recovery Goal

The 2017 Recovery Strategy identifies the following goal for the Vancouver Island Marmot:

“The recovery (population and distribution) goal is to maintain or increase the abundance of Vancouver Island Marmots in at least two geographically separated areas within the species’ historic range, and to ensure connectivity within each of these areas. The recovery goal will be met when, in the absence of population augmentation using captive-bred individuals, the metapopulation in each of the two areas (and therefore the species overall) has a > 90% probability of persistence over 100 years.” 

The Strategy further identifies 7 priorities for achieving the long-term goal:

1.Increase the number of marmots through augmentation and, if possible, by increasing survival rates and reproductive rates in the wild.
2.Maximize opportunities for successful dispersion between colonies.
3.Maintain a large and genetically diverse captive-breeding population that can produce adequate numbers of release candidates to support population recovery.
4.Prioritize the maintenance of genetic variability in the global population until recovery goals are met.
5.Reduce knowledge gaps surrounding: ( a) natural levels of variability in survival and reproductive rates in the wild; (b) factors that determine key demographic rates; and (c) the best method to monitor population size and key demographic rates long term.
6.Develop and implement a plan for reducing intensive management as metapopulations recover.
7.Develop and implement a sound strategy to ensure sufficient resources are available to support recovery efforts until recovery goals are met.


 Objectives:

  • 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 Team believes that it is ecological feasibility for the Vancouver Island marmot to successfully recover. 

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.