AR-News: B.C. government ponders wolf,
cougar kill to protect rare marmots
wolfcrest at hotmail.com
Tue Jun 15 12:34:15 EDT 2004
B.C. government ponders wolf, cougar kill to protect rare marmots
By DIRK MEISSNER
VICTORIA (CP) - Wolves and cougars on Vancouver Island are threatening to
wipe out the rarest mammal in North America, says a scientist working to
protect the Vancouver Island marmot from extinction.
The only chance the estimated 30 marmots still living in the wild have for
survival is if British Columbia's government permits a wolf and cougar kill,
Andrew Bryant, Marmot Recovery Foundation chief scientist, said Monday.
A Water, Land and Air Protection Ministry spokeswoman said the government is
examining the plight of the marmots and will decide this month if it will
approve a wolf and cougar kill.
Minister Joyce Murray said last month there is compelling scientific
evidence about the threats predators pose to the survival of the marmots,
who live only in mountainous regions of eastern Vancouver Island.
Environmental groups agree the marmots are threatened with extinction, but
are not willing to endorse a predator kill as the way to save the species,
which counting marmots being bred in captivity, numbers less than 100.
Bryant said there is little time for experiments and studies.
"We're down to probably fewer than 30 in the wild," said Bryant. "You don't
have to be a rocket scientist to realize that we have a problem."
The marmots, nicknamed whistle pigs because of their squeal-like calls, are
chocolate brown and about the size of a cat, weighing five to seven
They hibernate from September to May but spend summers in small colonies of
one or two females and their offspring in mountain meadows and forest
Six of the 18 marmots fitted with radio-transmitter collars were killed by
predators last year, Bryant said. Wolves killed four, an eagle killed one
and a cougar killed the other, he said.
One died of natural causes when an underground tunnel caved in, Bryant said.
"No population can withstand that kind of mortality," said Bryant. "In the
wild we are just losing too many marmots. "
A cull should help the marmots re-establish their populations in the wild,
The marmots are being bred successfully in captivity at the Calgary and
Toronto zoos, and at a facility on Vancouver Island. But they are easy
pickings for the predators in the wild, Bryant said.
Wolves and cougars who used to depend on deer for food are now waiting at
the marmot colony sites, he said. The wolves have become so adept at hunting
the marmots that they actually wait along logging roads used by the mammals,
"We are talking about a handful of predators who have become very astute
about hunting marmots and know where all the colonies are," he said.
"We've got to address the root cause, which is predators in this modified
The government must explore non-lethal methods of keeping predators away
from the marmots, said Chris Genovali, Raincoast Conservation Society
"Large carnivores are once again being scapegoated for the impacts of
Jill Thompson, a Sierra Club of B.C. spokeswoman, said her organization
wants the marmots to survive. But it will not endorse a wolf or cougar kill
until the government admits its forest policies caused the marmot's problem.
"It has to start with a ban on deer hunting and a change in forest policy,"
she said. "Why should we just address the symptom without addressing the
Bryant estimated there are about 20 wolves and six cougars living in the
areas populated by marmots. He could not estimate how many cougars and
wolves live on Vancouver Island.
There are unconfirmed reports of between 150 and 250 wolves on the island
and up to 400 cougars.
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