Supporting Recovery of Endangered Vancouver Island Marmot

Project Year: 2016-2017

View Provincial Database Record

Photo: Calgary Zoo

Project Lead

Marmot Recovery Foundation


Coastal Region


Project Type

Species-Based Actions

FWCP Contribution


Action Plan Alignment

Campbell Species Action Plan

Project ID


Vancouver Island Marmot: Buttle Lake Supplementation and Monitoring 2016

The Vancouver Island Marmot is critically endangered and endemic to B.C. Since 2007, recovery efforts have worked to re-establish marmot colonies in historic habitat near Buttle Lake. The number of colonies near Buttle Lake has increased from one to 14, and the population has grown from 10, to more than 100 marmots. However, these fledgling colonies are still small and extremely vulnerable. This project will release captive-bred and wild-born marmots to strengthen existing colonies and improve colony distribution and connectivity. It will also collect data on survival and reproduction by marmots released in previous years. Statistical analysis will identify the release strategy through which marmots are most likely to succeed. Results will be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

Direct wildlife benefits of this project include:

  1. Improved female body condition and increased maternal likelihood for weaning litters at four to five sites in 2017. This is the expected result from spring feeder installation.
  2. Increased overall likelihood for breeding in 2017 and 2018, as a result of releasing or translocating 20-30 marmots into the Buttle Lake area in 2016. Some wild-born and pre-conditioned marmots have bred in their first post-release summer, and those that do not are likely to breed the following summer.
  3. Increased distribution of colonies, so that dispersing marmots can find other colonies while traveling shorter distances. This should decrease the physiological demands on dispersing individuals, while also reducing their exposure to risk.
  4. Increased number of marmots in the landscape, naturally colonizing new locations and functioning as ecological engineers in their historic habitat. Marmots may exert influence on three kilometres of habitat around their home burrow, and so releases at four to five sites will strengthen or restore marmot influence over 12-15 kilometres, at minimum.

Indirect wildlife benefits of this project include:

  1. Ten sites monitored by remote cameras, in order to collect data on resident tagged and untagged marmots, reproduction, and predator visits.
  2. An additional 20-30 active transmitters near Buttle Lake to provide post-release survival and location data.
  3. Collection of data on approximately 50 marmots with transmitters already established in the Buttle Lake area.
  4. Trapping and implantation of four to 10 marmots born in situ near Buttle Lake, to facilitate data collection on survival and dispersal (if also prioritized by the Recovery Team).

Final Report: Executive Summary

The Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis, Swarth 1911) is endemic to Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada, but was extirpated from historical habitat in Strathcona Provincial Park by the mid-1990’s. Over the past decade, the Marmot Recovery Foundation (MRF) has worked under the guidance of the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team to re-establish a wild population in the region. Initially, reintroductions of captive-bred marmots were intended to create two metapopulations that would be geographically distinct and genetically isolated from one another by the presence of Buttle Lake. However, successful releases at the south end of Buttle Lake established some connectivity between these two small populations, which are now being managed as a single metapopulation. This report describes the methods and results from the 2016 field season, during which MRF addressed three categories of actions described in the Campbell River Watershed Species of Interest Action Plan: Species-Based Actions, Monitoring and Evaluation, and Research and Information Acquisition (Fish and Wildlife Compensation Program 2011).

MRF installed six supplemental feeders at Mt. Washington and two in Strathcona Provincial Park, in order to improve maternal condition and increase the likelihood of reproduction. During live-trapping sessions at Mt. Washington, 18 wild-born marmots were implanted with radiotelemetry. MRF also live-trapped at two colonies in Strathcona Provincial Park, which resulted in the radiotelemetry implant of three additional marmots. In total, 17 marmots were released into Strathcona to support seven existing colonies, and an additional nine marmots were released on Mt. Washington for preconditioning. Throughout the active season, MRF used radiotelemetry to monitor the survival of >70 telemetered marmots. There was poor survival in Strathcona between 2015 and 2016, and mortality rates were high for established marmots as well as new releases. Remote cameras captured footage of weaned pups at three of five monitored colonies, and field crew observed two litters and five pups on Mt. Washington. MRF tracked the location of dispersing marmots, and most confirmed dispersals occurred between release sites and existing colonies on nearby mountains. MRF estimates that there are currently 70-100 marmots living in nine colonies in the Strathcona region. There is an ongoing research collaboration to analyze survival data from recent releases in Strathcona (2012-16). Analyses will explore whether there are differences in survival probability as a function of release type, and will help managers to identify the release candidates that are most likely to survive in the region over the short- and long-term.

Click the provincial database link below to read the full final report for this project.

View more about this project on the provincial database