Interesting facts about marmots

marmot

Marmots are large squirrels in the genus Marmota.

There are 15 species of marmots.

They live in the Northern Hemisphere.

Some species live in mountainous areas, such as the Alps, northern Apennines, Carpathians, Tatras, and Pyrenees in Europe and northwestern Asia; the Rocky Mountains, Black Hills, the Cascade and Pacific Ranges, and the Sierra Nevada in North America; and the Deosai Plateau in Pakistan and Ladakh in India. Other species prefer rough grassland and can be found widely across North America and the Eurasian Steppe.

In the wild, marmots can live from 6 to 15 years, depending on the species. If kept in captivity,
marmots can live up to 18 years.

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Marmots are big and chubby with very short legs and bulky bodies. They are very cute and furry with wide faces and short muzzles. They have small ears with fur on them and busy tails.

All marmots closely resemble each other with a few differences in color, coat and size.

An adult marmot may stand at 13-18 cm (5.1-7.1 in) at the shoulder. They reach between 30 and 60 cm (11.8 and 23.6 in) in length, not including the tail, which measures between 10 to 25 cm (3.9 to 9.8 in).

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The body mass is typically between 2 and 10 kg (4.4 and 22 lb).

The fur coat of marmots have colors that range from dark gray to brown to yellowish-white, this helps
the marmots to blend in with the environment.

Each of marmot’s forefoot has four-toes with long concave claws for burrowing, and each hind foot has five toes.

Marmots like all rodents, are noted for their teeth. They have a pair of large incisors on the upper and one on the lower jaw that grow continuously and need to be kept short and sharpened by frequent gnawing.

marmot teeth

Marmots rely on their senses to survive, and so have a good sense of smell and hearing. However, their eyesight is good but short-sighted.

Marmots live in a variety of social systems ranging from the mostly solitary groundhog to those highly social species where offspring from several years live together with their parents and, may help rear younger siblings.

Marmots communicate by a variety of visual and audio signals, they scream, whistle and use tooth
chattering as means of communication. When predators approach, marmots make a high pitched, whistle-like sound to alert others.

Marmots are active during the day (diurnal).

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Sometimes they can be spotted “sunning” on the rocks during the day.

Marmots typically live in burrows, and hibernate there through the winter. Burrows can be as deep as 7 meters (22 feet).

They generally begin hibernating in late September. During this hibernation period they survive entirely on their fat reserves accumulated during the summer.

They emerge through the snow in April and early May, during which time there may be nothing to eat, and when they are especially vulnerable to predators.

Marmots are mainly herbivorous, mainly eating greens. They eat many types of grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, roots, and flowers. However they sometimes on rare occasions eat insects.

marmot eating

Although most marmots are monogamous, in some species, females have multiple mates.

The mating season for marmots occurs in the spring, right after their hibernation period comes to a
close, which gives their offspring the highest possible chance of storing enough fat to survive the
coming winter.

Gestation period is about 32 days and mothers nurse their young in their natal burrows for about another month before the pups emerge above ground. The average litter is about 3-4 pups, but we’ve had emerged litters as small as 1 and as big as 9.

marmot mother and pups

Ecologically, marmots are a source of food for such animals as wolves, foxes, coyotes, bears, and
eagles, with the young marmots particularly susceptible to predation.

Marmots have been an historical source of meat, fat, and fur for early Europeans, Native Americans and Asian people.

The etymology of the term “marmot” is uncertain. It may have arisen from the Gallo-Romance prefix marm-, meaning to mumble or murmur (an example of onomatopoeia). Another possible origin is post-classical Latin, mus montanus, meaning “mountain mouse”.

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People who study marmots are called “marmoteers” or “marmotologists”.

Marmots have been known since antiquity.

Research by the French ethnologist Michel Peissel claimed the story of “gold-digging ants” reported by the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the fifth century BCE, was founded on the golden Himalayan marmot of the Deosai Plateau and the habit of local tribes such as the Brokpa to collect the gold dust excavated from their burrows.

During the 20th century, marmot fur was fashionable in Europe, and it is estimated that Mongolians, who did not use marmot skins traditionally, prepared approximately 132,700 marmot skins a year between 1906 and 1994.

The endangered Vancouver Island marmot remains one of the world’s rarest mammals.

Marmots’ evolutionary history is recorded in North America by fossils of extinct species from the late Miocene Epoch (13.8 million to 5.3 million years ago). In Eurasia there is no evidence earlier than the Pleistocene Epoch (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago).

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