1Wildlife Branch, Ministry of Environment, Lands and Parks, Victoria, BC, Canada; 2Nanaimo, BC, Canada
The Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) is one of the rarest mammals in the world and the only indigenous Canadian mammal to be designated as endangered. The total population is 150 or less and is limited to two small areas of Vancouver Island in British Columbia (BC). The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) Recovery Plan for the Vancouver Island Marmot provides an overview of activities recommended by the national Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Team to achieve down-listing of M. vancouverensis from its federal and provincial endangered status.
Factors contributing to the decline of marmot numbers appear to include weather, predation, disease, human activities, and reduced landscape connectivity associated with dispersal into harvested forest sites. The recovery team considers that down-listing of the species from endangered to threatened should not occur until a total population of 300–400 animals is established in at least two metapopulations. Captive breeding combined with reintroductions into suitable habitat presents the best only option to increase marmot numbers to achieve this goal. Experience with captive breeding of other marmot species from western Europe and Asia provides evidence that this can be accomplished with limited technology. A captive breeding plan has been developed and is an integral component of the recovery plan. The primary goals of the captive breeding program are to produce marmots for reintroduction into historic habitats, to maintain captive animals for genetic preservation, noninvasive research and for educational and promotional display. The program will receive direction from the conservation program under the guidance of the recovery plan and recovery team.