Vancouver Island marmot

Marmota vancouverensis

TAXONOMY

Marmota vancouverensis Swarth, 1911, Mt. Douglas, Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Marmotte de l'île Vancouver; German: Vancouver-Murmeltier.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Males: 27.4 in (69.5 cm), 7.7-15.0 lb (3.5-6.8 kg); females: 26.0 in (66.1 cm), 6.6-14.3 kg (3.0-6.5 kg). Dark brown fur fades during summer to a cinnamon color. Adults have dark and lighter brown patchy appearance during molt. White patches on chest, nose, and chin, and white streak on top of head.

DISTRIBUTION

Restricted to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. HABITAT

Meadows and open forests from 3,600-3,750 ft (1,100-1,140 m) but will live at lower elevations above 2,300 ft (700 m) in clearings created by forests harvesting.

BEHAVIOR

The social structure of the Vancouver Island marmot is not well known. It is a highly social marmot that lives in colonies in natural subalpine and clearcut areas. A colony may be composed of one or more family groups. Colonies of adults, subadults, yearlings and juveniles in natural subalpine areas can have up to 15 individuals and in clearcut areas up to 27. A particular vocalization "kee-aw" is unique among the marmots.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Diet is mostly forbs and grasses, but will also eat ferns and some berries. Diet varies seasonally with grasses being dominant in early spring and forbs dominant during summer.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

Litter size averages 3.4 with a range of 2-5. Average age of first reproduction is four years but can reproduce at age three. Although females are capable or producing litters in subsequent years, most females produce litters in alternate years.

CONSERVATION STATUS

Classified as Endangered by the IUCN and Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC). According to the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Foundation only 25 marmots were known to exist in the wild in fall of 2002. Captive breeding programs began in 1997 for future reintroduction. As of fall 2002, 63 marmots were distributed among facilities in Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, and on Mt. Washington on Vancouver Island for future reintroduction. The reason for the decline is not certain but may involve one or more factors including the gradual reduction of alpine habitat with climate change, landscape change from forestry practices, and changes in number or behavior of predators.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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