#Biodiversity150 number 12 of 150 Vancouver Island Marmot

12/150: Meet the Vancouver Island Marmot for Groundhog Day!

animalia: Chordata: Mammalia: Rodentia: Sciuridae: Xerinae: Marmota: Marmota vancouverensis (Swarth, 1911)

This year, Ontario’s ever so fluctuating winter weather has everyone eagerly looking forward to Groundhog Day. As the groundhog emerges from their burrows, citizens of Ontario are on the edge of their seats as they wait to see if the groundhog sees its shadow, indicating the early or late arrival of spring. Vancouver Island Marmots (Marmota vancouverensis) are one of only five endemic mammals to Canada and can only be found living in the high mountains of Vancouver Island. They are closely related to groundhogs, classifying under the same Genus, Marmota. It is believed the marmots originated from the mainland during a glacial period where water levels dropped creating a land bridge. This allowed them to cross over to what is now Vancouver Island and evolve separately from other marmots. Their habitat consists of subalpine and alpine meadows and they are herbivores which feed upon over 50 different species of grasses, flowers and herbs. Much like the groundhog, they live underground in burrows close to their food source and to hide from potential predators.

Vancouver Island Marmots are the most endangered mammal in Canada with their population dropping to 30 individuals in 2003. The Toronto Zoo started a recovery program in 1997, in hopes to restore the population of the marmots. So far the captive breeding program has successfully bred 167 litters and 556 pups and are working towards restoring and reintroducing their population.

A Vancouver Island Marmot standing in their pen. Photo Credit: Toronto Zoo
A Vancouver Island Marmot resting in the grass. Photo Credit: Ken Ardill, Toronto Zoo


Here’s the barcode sequence information for this species:

Process ID: TZMAM014-15

nucleotide sequence


amino acid sequence


Learn more about it’s BIN (Barcode Index Number): BOLD:ABY2151