Sunday, July 13, 2008

Yellow-bellied Marmot

A Yellow-bellied Marmot pokes its  head out from its lair
Yellow-bellied Marmots (Marmota flaviventris) are the sun worshiping denizens of the mountains. They are often observed sprawled indelicately upon a fat rock, their large bellies barely supported by the stone. After hibernating for 8 months I can see why. I too emerge from the winter sun-starved.

Marmots are actually ground squirrels and are related to the infamous ground hog. I suspect all our hibernating marmots roll over in their sleep when their distant cousin declares a longer winter. If a marmot’s fat reserves run out while hibernating, it will die. Alas, I have too easy access to chocolate, fine dining, and chicken wing binges to every worry about that! While late summer is my time to slim down, it is the time for marmots to gorge themselves on grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, roots, and flowers. How boring! They need to read some of my restaurant reviews. A diet of lichen is hardly fat building.

Adult Marmots are cute, but lets face facts, BABY MARMOTS are cuter!! I stumbled across these triplets, who all look like they had different daddies, on the trail to Handies Peak.
Mother marmot, who is significantly larger, watches us from behind a rock.
Marmots can be found at any altitude but prefer to live above 8,000 ft. They dig large burrows that have many entrances and exits. They line the burrow with grasses and fur to make it comfortable. These burrows are usually on rocky slopes next to meadows. Highly territorial, they did not want to move. Somehow the law of gross tonnage does not apply to marmots, they think they are bigger than they are. Perhaps they have a tail complex. At 6 inches I might have an ego too.

These little babies were living in and around an old mining train on the edge of Silverton Colorado. I have always wondered where Marmots go when they win the lottery. I just bet the inside is decorated with cabin kitsch...Moose trivets and throws, log furniture, a winter long stash of Jack Daniels, and a dog-eared copy of Murder on the Orient Express. 

Marmots are ubiquitous in the mountains. They will shriek at you if you invade their territory or look the other way as if you are not worthy of attention. The two that I photographed here seemed jealous of the mountain goats that I was following and kept posing like glamour girls on the catwalk.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for you info. Just saw a marmot in a garden in east Denver. Is this common, can he survive winter?

sylvia murphy said...

Doubt it was a Marmot. They only live at high altitudes. These guys are the size of a very large house cat.