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Protecting the endangered marmot with dirty laundry

The Story

The Vancouver Island marmot, one of the most endangered mammals in the world, has been the focus of an intense recovery effort. In 2003 the first re-introduction of captive-born marmot pups took place near a research facility on Vancouver Island. After marginal success in the 2003 re-introductions, chief marmot scientist Andrew Bryant and his team took their guardianship to a new level in 2004. Listen to this CBC Radio interview with Dr. Bryant about some unconventional approaches to predator control. Bryant says his team plays a huge role in keeping the marmots safe. Human "guardians" use non-lethal techniques to scare off wolves, cougars and eagles. Thanks to a combination of private land stewardship and captive breeding techniques, scientists predict that the marmot will be off the endangered list in 10-15 years. 

Medium: Radio
Program: As It Happens
Broadcast Date: May 31, 2004
Guest(s): Andrew Bryant
Host: Barbara Budd, Mary Lou Finlay
Duration: 6:10
Photo: Andrew A. Bryant

Did You know?

• Sheila Coles of CBC Radio's Sounds Like Canada gets "Marmot 101" from Bryant.
• Andrew Bryant and his field team considered a number of techniques to scare off predators near the marmot release area. These included visual barriers, human urination and piles of dirty clothes.

• As of May 2004, there were 78 Vancouver Island marmots in captivity and approximately 15 living in the wild. By July 2004, after re-introductions and spring litters, those numbers were up to 92 animals in captivity and approximately 30 in the wild.

• A combination of factors contributed to the steep decline in the marmot population. Rather than living in their normal habitat, the marmot decided to settle in areas that had been clearcut. Deer also moved in to feed on new growth, as did larger predators. Add into the mix the easy accessibility provided by logging roads and the clearcuts turned into what one conservationist called "marmot killing fields."

• The B.C. government was criticized by conservation groups when it encouraged the hunting of predators such as cougars, wolves and golden eagles near the marmot colonies.
• There are four captive populations of Vancouver Island marmots in Canada: the Toronto Zoo, the Calgary Zoo, Mountain View Farm in Langley, B.C. and the Mt. Washington research facility, home of the Vancouver Island Marmot Recovery Project.

• Breeding in captivity has been used successfully to help re-establish species on the brink of extinction such as the peregrine falcon and the bison.


Endangered Species in Canada more