200

Vancouver Island Marmot

North America

200

Marmota vancouverensis

Endangered

Climate change
Forest clear-cutting activities
Predation
Interbreeding

The Vancouver Island Marmot is the largest member of the squirrel family and is considered as one of the rarest mammals in the world. The British Columbia native rodent used to have 30 remaining individuals in the wild back in 2003, making it the most famous endangered animal in Canada.

Described as a living teddy bear, it has chocolate brown coat and can weigh between three and seven kilograms. The Vancouver Island Marmot is an obligate herbivore, having a diet of grasses and plants only. It is also a colluvial dweller, which means its dens within the rocky slopes consist of loose soil and sediments from rainwater.

Population decline are attributed to many factors. On top of the list is the intensity and variations in weather patterns as well as landscape alteration due to climate change. This makes the marmot’s habitat range less and less ideal for breeding and for upholding the marmot ‘culture’. The openness of forests, valleys, and meadows also attracts predatory animals such as wolves, cougars, and golden eagles which the marmot has little to no defense against.

And as balding forests continue to become a frequent occurrence, it pushes the Vancouver Island Marmot out of its natural ecosystem, disrupting their normal reproductive capacity or shortening their survival rate. Because population fragmentation results to less interaction with other marmots, they tend to become more aggressive or hostile, rather than cooperative, to its kind.

Interbreeding among remaining individuals in the wild decreases genetic variation which makes the Vancouver Island Marmot more vulnerable to diseases and even shortens its average lifespan of ten to fifteen years.