If you see a marmot on Vancouver Island, please tell the Marmot Recovery Foundation about it.

Reports from backcountry users, particularly those who spend time in the sub-alpine, greatly benefit the conservation of this unique and endangered species.

About the Vancouver Island Marmot

As its name suggests, the Vancouver Island marmot only lives on the Island. In fact it is B.C’s only endemic mammal, and one of only 5 mammals endemic in all of Canada.

This marmot lives in sub-alpine montane meadows between 700 and 1500 meters elevation, where it forages on a wide variety of vegetation during the spring and summer. During the winter, the marmot hibernates in an underground hibernaculum. These hibernacula may be dug 3 to 4 meters deep, or deeper, into the rocky, talus-strewn soils that the marmot prefers. Many generations of marmots may use the same hibernaculum, cleaning it out and refreshing the insulating vegetation year after year.

Unfortunately, the Vancouver Island Marmot is one of the most endangered mammals on the planet. By 2003, fewer than 30 marmots remained in the wild. Through recovery efforts, that number has risen to over 200, but much work remains to secure this unique species’ place in the Island’s wilderness.

You can play a part by reporting marmots that you see on Vancouver Island.

How to spot and identify a marmot

Finding marmots can be challenging at first, as these house-cat sized animals blend into their surroundings with remarkable ease. However, a few tips will help:

  • Listen for the warning whistles marmots make when a predator approaches. You can listen here:
  • Marmots generally live in sub-alpine meadows and talus fields. Look in boulder fields and avalanche chutes in particular.
  • Look on the tops of large rocks, fallen logs, and outcrops on cliffs. Marmots like to have a good view of their surroundings.

Identifying a marmot

There a number of other animals that can be mistaken for marmots, especially large squirrels and marten. Observe the animal’s behavior and movement. Try to judge its size by comparing it to animals you are familiar with. Make note of its body shape. Below is a silhouette chart to help place the marmot with some of its more frequently mistaken suspects and common animals.

Reviewing video of Vancouver Island marmots can help you develop an understanding of how they move and use the landscape.

This is a great look at an unconcerned marmot resting and feeding. But marmots are not always so languid.

This is a pair of more active pups wrestling with each other and running around. For comparison, look at the “slinky” like body of this marten – it is very different from the build of a marmot!

Where to spot marmots

The Marmot Recovery Foundation and our partners have been working to re-establish the wild population of marmots. There are currently two meta-populations (networks of colonies) and one known isolated colony. Sightings from these colonies are greatly appreciated.

Note, some marmots colonies occur on private land or on lands designated as ecologically sensitive. The Foundation does not share the locations of colonies on such lands. (note: GPS info will be provided by Field Coordinator) With all sites, please check local conditions and hazards. Respect park or landowners access rules. Be safe in the backcountry!

South Vancouver Island Sites

Currently occupied

  • Mount Arrowsmith Regional Park – Below the summit on both sides of Arrowsmith are marmot colonies
  • Steamboat, Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park

Occupied within past 15 years, current status in doubt

  • 5040, Clayoquot Plateau Provincial Park – marmots were released here in the mid-2000s, but the colony appeared to fail. Has not been formally monitored in several years.

Strathcona Provincial Park

Currently occupied

  • Marble Meadows
  • Tibetan
  • Grieg Ridge
  • Albert Edward at Hope Lake
  • Frink
  • Castlecrag
  • George V
  • Allan Brooks (sporadically)
  • Flower Ridge

Occupied within past 15 years, current status in doubt

  • Sunrise Lake
  • Morrison Spire
  • Big Jim Valley
  • Celeste
  • Mt Phillips
  • Henshaw
  • Drinkwater

North Vancouver Island

Occupied within past 15 years, current status in doubt

  • Mt Cain
  • Mt Seth (Schoen Lake Provincial Park)

Other Sites of Particular Interest

Marmots are not known to occur at these sites presently, or even in recent decades. However, there is potential marmot habitat, and a faint possibility that dispersing marmots have established small, as yet undetected colonies. Alternatively, a lone marmot may have occupied one these sites, without access to a mate.

  • All higher elevation areas of Strathcona Provincial Park
  • Beaufort Range – note that land ownership and access in this region varies.
  • Bonanza Peak/Range – note that land ownership and access in this region varies.
  • Mt Schoen (Schoen Lake Provincial Park)
  • Peaks around Tahsish – Kwois Provincial Park

Marmots have surprised us before, so do keep your eyes open at all times! We often tell the story of Alan, a marmot who was discovered on the beach (literally) at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

How to Report

Take photos! Even poor photos can provide us with a great deal of information. In addition, please provide as much of the information below as you can, and leave blank any questions you cannot answer.

  • Name:
  • Email:
  • Telephone:
  • Photographs? Upload or just “yes/no”
  • Approximate location where you saw the marmot (any coordinate system is fine, UTM by mild preference)
  • How close were you?
  • Describe the marmot(s) that you saw:
  • What behavior did you see?
  • Weather conditions:

Email to info@marmots.org or call us at 250-390-0006.