Discovery of Yellow-Bellied Marmots in the Pilot Range: Implications for Species Distribution Models in the Great Basin

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The array of island-like mountains that characterizes the Great Basin has long been a model system for studying the effects of past and present climate change on distributions of montane mammals. One of the smallest of these mountains is the Pilot Range (Nevada/Utah). This range has relatively few species of montane mammals, presumably because of its small size and the fact that it was isolated by the waters of Lake Bonneville during much of Pleistocene. One of the species previously assumed to be absent in the Pilot Range is the yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris). On 23 May 2016, I documented marmots living in the Patterson Pass area of the Pilot Range. This discovery shows how the use of high-resolution satellite images and geological maps combined with a good understanding of the species' habitat provides an excellent opportunity to confirm the presence or accurately infer the absence of a species in a remote, rugged location.

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Western North American Naturalist