Andrew Bryant – “Recovery of Vancouver Island marmots”

Andrew Bryant – “Recovery of Vancouver Island marmots”
by Andrew Bryant, 19 Jan 2012.

I had the great good fortune to spend over twenty years working with what used to be the most critically endangered mammal in North America, the Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis).

Mine was a detective story, for that is what science is.  How do we know what we think we know?  The story of Vancouver Island marmots is one of blind alleys, mistakes, and plain bad luck.   The world population declined during  the 1990s to a few score remaining in the wild by 2003  (the estimate was ~30).   At the last hour, a recovery program based on captive-breeding and reintroduction began in 1997.

Slowly at first, but with growing momentum, a team of dedicated researchers, loggers, naturalists, veterinarians, housewives, architects, financial planners and schoolchildren began to raise the resources necessary to solve the problem.  The captive program was successful and reintroductions began in 2003.  A decade later the wild population has rebounded to over 300 individuals.

Although not out of the woods yet, the Vancouver Island marmot story is no longer one of impending doom.  Instead, these lovely animals offer a wonderful story of forensic science, and a compelling tale of hope.