Washington's Olympic Marmots Disappearing
A species of marmot unique to western Washington state is rapidly declining, recent surveys confirm.
Abandoned Olympic marmot colonies, marked by networks of burrows, are now widespread in Olympic National Park's alpine meadows.
Researchers observed during five years of field work that no marmots moved into the vacant colonies. In addition, they noticed marmots deserting even more sites. Three marmot groups located in 2002, for instance, had disappeared by 2003.
In meadows where Olympic marmots do persist, their numbers have dwindled from historical levels by 70 percent. Survival of adult females has especially dropped considerably since previous surveys.
This population trend for Olympic marmots is particularly disconcerting because its close relative has already gone to the brink of extinction. During the 1990s, Vancouver Island marmots plummeted to fewer than one hundred individuals. Since then, a captive breeding program has managed to keep the British Columbian marmot alive.
Suzanne C. Griffin, Mark L. Taper, Roger Hoffman and L. Scott Mills. 2008. The case of the missing marmots: Are metapopulation dynamics or range-wide declines responsible? Biological Conservation. 141(5): 1293-1309.
Suzanne C. Griffin, L. Scott Mills and Mark L. Taper. 2004. The Decline Of The Olympic Marmot: Evaluating The Spatial Extent And Causes. 84th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists. June 12-16, 2004. Humboldt State University, Arcata, CA.