Reintroduction of the Marmot (Marmota marmota) in Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park

The Marmot is one of the most familiar species of the mountain wildlife and an essential component of the high-mountain grassland ecosystem. These two elements make particularly useful its reintroduction in the Alps where, because of human factors – at least in part -, it disappeared during the Holocene period or in another historical period. As demonstrated in the nearby Dolomiti Friulane Park, the reintroduction of the Marmot represents an effective improvement and completion of the alpine/sub-alpine ecosystem of the high-mountain grasslands, contributing, among the other things, to improve the quality of the habitat for the Golden Eagle.
Its distribution gap in Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park is today more evident than in the past, since the species has been successfully reintroduced in the neighboring dolomitic and pre-alpine areas of Friuli and has therefore spread in all the sub-areas of the Dolomites (Altoatesine, Bellunesi, Friulane), except for the National Park.

For these reasons, also considering the success of similar marmot reintroduction experiences in areas adjacent and similar to Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park, like Dolomiti Friulane Park, the Park Authority, thanks to the co-financing of Fondazione Cassa di Risparmio di Verona, Vicenza, Belluno and Ancona and with the technical-scientific collaboration of dr. Antonio Borgo, started a project for the reintroduction of the species in the Park.
The project lasted three years and ended in 2008.
At the beginning of 2006, a study of feasibility was carried out to find out, through specific mathematic patterns, eligible areas to house the marmot colonies. Within these areas, the most suitable areas for the release of the animals were selected. According to the preliminary studies, the Park territory was able to “stand” a population of about 1,300-1,500 marmots.

After the preliminary studies, and after obtaining from INFS – Istituto Nazionale per la Fauna Selvatica (National Institute for the Wildlife) the necessary authorization, the animals were captured.
Thanks to an agreement with the Province of Belluno, the provincial forest keepers captured, on 22nd and 23rd May 2006, 20 animals in the area situated between Pordoi Pass and Cherz, near Livinallongo.
Further 21 animals were captured, from 24th to 26th May 2006, by the CTA agents of the National Forest Service and by the technical staff of the Park Authority at Stelvio Pass, thanks to an agreement with the historical National Park.
The 41 animals were weighed, a small sample of tissue was taken in order to carry out genetic analyses, and colored “earrings” were applied in order to recognize the animals after the release.
Within 24-48 hours from the capture, the 20 marmots coming from Pordoi Pass were moved to the Park and released in the area of Piani Eterni; the 21 animals coming from Stelvio found a new home at Vette Feltrine.

The marmots have also been named by the staff of the project. Therefore, during the summer the hikers may meet “Sacher”, coming from Stelvio, hear the whistles of “Campanula”, captured in Cherz, admire “Heidi” while she basks in the sun, or observe “Toni”, “Susanna” and “Brendol” running across the meadows. Of course, the female names given to the animals also include “Lujanta”: the princess of the realm of Fanis who, according to the legend, was entrusted to marmots while she was a baby, as pawn of the ancient alliance linking the people of Fanes to the marmots.
In tables 1, 2 and 3 you will find the marking colors, the place of origin, the name and weight of the released animals.
During the summer, the released animals are constantly monitored by the staff of the National Forest Service, the staff of the Park, and three students who are writing a thesis, in order to check the adaptation to the new environment and the success of the reintroduction measure.

In 2007, further 40 marmots were released.
In 2008, a census activity focusing on the families formed in the latest two years was carried out, together with an evaluation of new limited introductions of support.
In parallel with the scientific reintroduction project, a communication campaign was carried out to spread the results of the activities.
This project was possible thanks to the positive collaboration between Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park Authority and the other institutions in charge of wildlife management and preservation: the Province of Belluno and its Provincial Police Force, CTA of the National Forest Service, and Stelvio National Park. A synergy among Authorities promoting the return of one of the symbols of the Alps in the Park.
Concerning this, the Director of the Park Authority, Nino Martino, declared after the release of the first animals: “The careful conservation policy of a wonderful territory starts to give its fruits: Dolomiti Bellunesi are increasingly famous for being a wilderness realm, a casket of biodiversity, an uncontaminated place. The Park has promoted these mountains focusing on their most important value: the presence of wild nature a few steps from one of the cathedrals of the art and culture of Man, Venice and its lagoon. In these days we woke up before dawn. With the help of the agents of the provincial police and the Park forest service we captured our marmots. Seeing them running free in the mountains, after the unavoidable stress of the capture was an unforgettable experience. This summer, when we will stroll around Vette Feltrine and Piani Eterni, our effort will be eased thanks to the whistle of this nice mammal, a real mascot for high-mountain hikers. Another challenge of conservation and rehabilitation of the natural environment that the Park wanted to face. Waiting for the conditions for the reintroduction of the wild ibex. We hope that both citizens and visitors may grasp the great charm of these mountains and their wild nature.”
Also Prof. Guido De Zordo, the President of the Park, declared his satisfaction for the project that will give hikers, above all young hikers, the possibility to meet an animal which is not only a symbol of the wildlife of the Alps, but also one of the nicest and easiest species to observe.