Sunday 19 May
Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis)
What’s the World’s Favourite Species?Find out here.
Vancouver Island marmot fact file
- Find out more
- Print factsheet
Vancouver Island marmot description
This house-cat sized marmot or ground squirrel was first described in 1910. The Vancouver Island marmot is currently regarded as one of the rarest mammals of North America with fewer than 100 individuals remaining (3). It has quite a stocky body and a blunt, chubby face with small ears (5). The lustrous fur is usually a rich chestnut-brown colour with a creamy white patch around the nose and mouth that extends to the underside of the neck (5). The tail is fairly bushy and there is often a mottled streak of creamy-white fur along the chest and belly. Pups can be identified by their small size and very dark brown to black fur (2).
- 3.0 - 6.5 kg (4)
Vancouver Island marmot biology
Like all marmots, the Vancouver Island marmot lives in of one or more families. Families typically contain one adult male, up to two adult females, sub-adults, juveniles and the offspring produced that year (2). The colony lives in a complex series of underground burrows, and communicates by direct contact and whistling vocalisations including a high-pitched alarm whistle to warn others of impending danger (2). Hibernation occurs each winter between the end of September and early May, and hibernacula are characterised by the presence of grass and mud plugs sealing the burrow entrance during autumn, and tunnels in the snow after the occupants have emerged (2). During hibernation, marmots live off stored fat reserves built up in summer (4). Sexual maturity is reached at about four years of age, after which individuals breed every other year. Mating occurs in the burrow during the months of spring, and the litter, which usually contains three pups, is produced towards the beginning of July (2). The diet consists of over 50 species of grass and flowering plants (2).Top
Vancouver Island marmot range
The Vancouver Island marmot is endemic to Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada (2), between 1864 and 1969, marmots were recorded on 25 different mountains (2). In the past three decades however, the species has been lost from around two thirds of its former range (2). At present it occurs in five adjacent river drainages in south-central Vancouver Island, and around 100 km away in an isolated colony on Mount Washington (2).Top
Vancouver Island marmot habitat
Marmots tend to inhabit south or west-facing alpine meadows at altitudes of over 1000 m. They require deep soil for their burrows, and a wide variety of food plants (2). They may also occur in clear-cut areas (2).Top
Vancouver Island marmot status
The Vancouver Island marmot is classified as Critically Endangered (CR) on the IUCN Red List (1).Top
Vancouver Island marmot threats
Natural successional processes are probably responsible for the original scarcity of the Vancouver Island marmot, through tree encroachment in the alpine meadows it inhabits. The main causes of the recent severe decline are thought to be the disruption of the habitat due to logging activities, weather fluctuations and increases in deer numbers, which can cause an influx of predators. (4).Top
Vancouver Island marmot conservation
The Vancouver Island marmot gained legal protection under the British Columbia Wildlife Act in 1980, and a recovery team was set up in 1988 to devise a Recovery Plan (2). A captive breeding programme is now underway with the help of Toronto Zoo (3) and reintroductions are planned.Top
Find out more
For more information on this species see:
The Vancouver Island Marmot Pages
The Species Recovery Plan is available at
The Smithsonian Institution's North American Mammals website:
This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
- A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
- Sites where hibernation (A winter survival strategy in which an animal's metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained) takes place.
- A winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal's metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer. In insects, the correct term for hibernation is 'diapause', a temporary pause in development and growth. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
- Successional processes
- The progressive sequence of changes in vegetation types and animal life within a community that, if allowed to continue, result in the formation of a 'climax community' (the last stage in a succession where the vegetation reaches equilibrium with the environment).
IUCN Red List (January, 2010)
Animal Info (January, 2002)
The Marmot Burrow (January, 2002)
National Recovery Plan for the Vancouver Island Marmot (Marmota vancouverensis). Recovery of Nationally Endangered Wildlife 2000 (January, 2002)
The Vancouver Island Marmot Pages (January, 2002)
MyARKive offers the scrapbook feature to signed-up members, allowing you to organize your favourite ARKive images and videos and share them with friends.
Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials
Copyright in this website and materials contained on this website (Material) belongs to Wildscreen or its licensors.
Visitors to this website (End Users) are entitled to:
- view the contents of, and Material on, the website;
- download and retain copies of the Material on their personal systems in digital form in low resolution for their own personal use;
- teachers, lecturers and students may incorporate the Material in their educational material (including, but not limited to, their lesson plans, presentations, worksheets and projects) in hard copy and digital format for use within a registered educational establishment, provided that the integrity of the Material is maintained and that copyright ownership and authorship is appropriately acknowledged by the End User.
End Users shall not copy or otherwise extract, alter or manipulate Material other than as permitted in these Terms and Conditions of Use of Materials.
Additional use of flagged material
Green flagged material
Certain Material on this website (Licence 4 Material) displays a green flag next to the Material and is available for not-for-profit conservation or educational use. This material may be used by End Users, who are individuals or organisations that are in our opinion not-for-profit, for their not-for-profit conservation or not-for-profit educational purposes. Low resolution, watermarked images may be copied from this website by such End Users for such purposes. If you require high resolution or non-watermarked versions of the Material, please contact Wildscreen with details of your proposed use.
Creative commons material
Certain Material on this website has been licensed to Wildscreen under a Creative Commons Licence. These images are clearly marked with the Creative Commons buttons and may be used by End Users only in the way allowed by the specific Creative Commons Licence under which they have been submitted. Please see http://creativecommons.org for details.
Any other use
Please contact the copyright owners directly (copyright and contact details are shown for each media item) to negotiate terms and conditions for any use of Material other than those expressly permitted above. Please note that many of the contributors to ARKive are commercial operators and may request a fee for such use.
Save as permitted above, no person or organisation is permitted to incorporate any copyright material from this website into any other work or publication in any format (this includes but is not limited to: websites, Apps, CDs, DVDs, intranets, extranets, signage, digital communications or on printed materials for external or other distribution). Use of the Material for promotional, administrative or for-profit purposes is not permitted.