WPC Project

Vancouver Island Marmot Breeding

Species Status: Endangered in Canada; Critically Endangered globally (IUCN assessment)
Action Required: Conservation breeding and release, translocations
Location: Vancouver Island, British Columbia


As one of the world’s most endangered mammals, the Vancouver Island marmot teeters on the brink of extinction. Find out more about this species.

In 2003, only 30 of these small, furry animals were thought to remain in the wild. A conservation breeding program coupled with reintroduction efforts have improved those numbers significantly.

In 2005, Wildlife Preservation Canada funded research by former Canada’s New Noah Diane Casimir into the reproductive behaviour of marmots, in order to inform and improve management techniques at conservation breeding facilities. Using cameras placed within breeding enclosures, Diane was able to compare the behaviour of marmots from the breeding program with that of wild breeding pairs, using over 15,500 hours of observation. She also examined how management variables such age, the amount of time paired with a mate and visual contact with other pairs influenced production of young and litter size.

Diane’s research revealed differences in behaviours that can predict which animals will successfully produce pups and which will be unsuccessful. By monitoring these behaviours, facilities are better able to assess pairings to increase reproductive success and thus the number of animals available for reintroduction. Her work also identified environmental and management variables associated with reproductive success. The results of this research were incorporated into the breeding program, which saw increases in number of pups born and individuals reintroduced to the wild.

Thanks in part to the work of Diane and other partners, the breeding and reintroduction program has yielded excellent results. Between 2003 and 2015, the wild population of Vancouver Island marmots grew tenfold, from 30 to 300. By bolstering the wild population of Vancouver Island marmots with new, healthy pups, we have given this species a new lease on life. The methods developed may also be applicable to recovery programs for other at-risk mammals.

Casimir, D., A. Moehrenschlager, and R.M.R. Barclay. 2007. Factors influencing reproduction in captive Vancouver Island marmots: Implications for captive breeding and reintroduction programs. Journal of Mammology 88(6): 1412-1419. DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1644/06-MAMM-A-264R1.1

Casimir, D. 2005. Reproductive Behaviour of Vancouver Island Marmots, Marmota vancouverensis: Conclusions from a Conservation Breeding Program. (MSc Thesis) Calgary: University of Calgary, 134 pp.

Project Staff

Diane Casimir

Diane Casimir

Prior to starting her MSc degree, Diane Casimir was our Canada’s New Noah for 2000. She now works for the Parks Canada Agency on the National Species Conservation and Management Team, which provides advice and guidance to parks on species conservation issues with a focus on implementing Canada’s Species at Risk Act.