AR-News: B.C. government ponders wolf, cougar kill to protect rare marmots

jim robertson 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 
kilograms.

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 
clearcuts.

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, 
he said.

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, 
said Bryant.

"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 
landscape."

The government must explore non-lethal methods of keeping predators away 
from the marmots, said Chris Genovali, Raincoast Conservation Society 
spokesman.

"Large carnivores are once again being scapegoated for the impacts of 
clearcut logging."

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 
cause."

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.

http://cnews.canoe.ca/CNEWS/Canada/2003/01/06/9567-cp.html



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