Wildlife Research Wildlife Research Society
Ecology, management and conservation in natural and modified habitats

Optimising methods for monitoring programs: Olympic marmots as a case study

Julia Witczuk A B C D , Stanislaw Pagacz B and L. Scott Mills A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Wildlife Biology Program, College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, Missoula, MT 59812, USA.

B Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Wilcza 64, 00-679 Warszawa, Poland.

C Postal address: Carpathian Wildlife Research Station, Museum and Institute of Zoology, Polish Academy of Sciences, Ogrodowa 10, 38-700 Ustrzyki Dolne, Poland.

D Corresponding author. Email: juliawit@miiz.eu

Wildlife Research 35(8) 788-797 https://doi.org/10.1071/WR07187
Submitted: 15 December 2007  Accepted: 9 October 2008   Published: 16 December 2008


Monitoring of rare and declining species is one of the most important tasks of wildlife managers. Here we present a large-scale, long-term monitoring program for Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus) throughout its range across a logistically challenging mountainous park. Our multiple-stage process of survey design accounts for the difficulty imposed by access to remote habitats and funding constraints. The Olympic marmot is endemic to the Olympic Mountains, Washington State, USA. Although nearly all of its range is enclosed within Olympic National Park, declines and local extirpations of the species have been documented. We considered several possible alternative survey approaches, and propose a monitoring program designed to reflect extinction–recolonisation dynamics using presence–absence data. The sampling design is based on annual surveys of a set of at least 25 randomly selected clusters (closely located groups of sites with record of current or historical occupancy by marmots), and supplemented by sampling 15 never-occupied sites to test for new colonisations. The monitoring plan provides a framework that park managers can use for assessing changes over time in Olympic marmot distribution across the range of the species. Our sampling design may serve as a useful case study for establishing monitoring programs for other species with clumped distributions.

Additional keywords: Marmota olympus, occupancy, Olympic National Park, presence–absence.


We thank Sue Griffin, Jon Graham, Dan Pletscher and Kerry Foresman, as well as Andrea Taylor and two anonymous reviewers, for suggestions on the monitoring program and manuscript. We are grateful to Olympic National Park managers and staff for their support for the project. Funding was provided by the National Science Foundation (DEB-0415604 to L. Scott Mills and Mark L. Taper).


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Appendix 1.  Results of the pilot polygon surveys for the detectability assessment
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