Our current research is focused on strategies for increasing survival and reproduction of marmots in the wild.
Our field-based study seeks to determine if providing additional food during the active season can offset the resource-related factors that limit marmot population growth. Specifically, we are testing if food supplementation will increase the body condition of adult females and pups, increase litter sizes, and ultimately improve survival and population growth rates.
We are also conducting a captive-based study to determine whether marmots born in captivity can distinguish between predators, like cougars and golden eagles, from non-predators, like ungulates, and exhibit appropriate anti-predator behaviour. If captive bred marmots aren’t wary of predators, better measures will be needed to prepare them for release in the wild.
The Wilder Institute is one of only three facilities that breed Vancouver Island marmots for release in the wild. We work together with the Marmot Recovery Foundation, which releases marmots born at the Wilder Institute/Calgary Zoo on Vancouver Island and monitors their movements and survival.
Our conservation impact
Together with our partners at Marmot Recovery Foundation and in collaboration with U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) we worked to identify the optimal release strategies for wild and captive-born marmots. This collaborative effort found that a stepping-stone approach increases the survival of captive-born marmots in the wild. Using this approach, marmots are initially released at a relatively safe marmot colony, where they experience their first wild hibernation. The following year, they are translocated to their final home. Read more about this approach here.