The yellow-bellied marmot is the largest member of the ground squirrel family. They are common in the western North America, primarily in mountainous areas. Marmots engage in a daily cycle of foraging, sunning, grooming and sleeping.
Yellow-bellied marmots live in mountainous or rocky areas in the steppes, alpine meadows and forests at elevations from 6,500 to 13,500 feet. They prefer to construct their burrows with multiple entrances in well-drained soil near rock piles or rock walls to keep out predators. When not foraging, marmots spend their time in or near their burrows, often stretching out on their protective rock outcroppings to enjoy the sun. Yellow-bellied marmots are primarily diurnal terrestrial animals with heavy set bodies and brown fur with yellow coloration on neck, hips and belly. They have beaver-like features with a light stripe across bridge of nose and squirrel-like bushy tails. They have a thumb stump with a nail.
Marmots grow to the size of household cats with a body length of two feet and a tail as long as 10 inches. Males can weigh in at 12 pounds with females being somewhat lighter than that. Marmot lifespan is 5 to 10 years in the wild and 10 to 15 years in captivity. Yellow-bellied marmots live in colonies with males maintaining harems of several females. Other members of the harem will include yearlings and newborn. A colony may contain a number of harems.
Marmots love flowering stalks, but their staple diet consists of plants and grasses. They will also eat fruit, grains, clovers, alfalfa, legumes and insects. Marmots can become skilled at begging food from people, who they often recognize as a food source, and fatten up on bread products such as cookies and crackers. Marmots hibernate through winter months. They tend to grow fat in late summer and early fall before starting hibernation. Their thick fur makes them look even larger than they are. Hibernation dens can be as deep as five yards under ground where the marmot will stay during the winter. They may lose as much as half their weight during hibernation.
Marmots will mate soon after emerging from hibernation. Females only have one litter per year, averaging 3 to 8 young of which half are expected to survive their first year. The young are born in grass-lined nests in May or June. The gestation period for a marmot is about four weeks and the young are weaned for an additional four weeks. Marmot females in a harem are amicable toward each other and tend to raise their offspring jointly. The young will stay with the mother for the duration of the summer and may hibernate with her. Sexual maturity in marmots is reached after two years.
Predators of the yellow-bellied marmot include wolves, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, mountain lions, bears, eagles, hawks, owls, weasels and martens. Marmots use a system of alarm calls to alert colony members to the presence of a predator. Marmots will chuck, whistle and trill when alarmed by predators.
Old World Marmots: Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) Black-capped marmot (Marmota camtschatica) Bobac marmot (Marmota bobac) Golden marmot (Marmota aurea) Gray marmot (Marmota baibacina) Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayana) Long-tailed marmot (Marmota caudata) Menzbier’s marmot (Marmota menzbieri) Mongolian marmot (Marmota sibirica)
New World Marmots: Alaska marmot (Marmota broweri) Hoary marmot (Marmota caligata) Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus) Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) Woodchuck (Marmota monax)
If you were a marmot, you’d have a squirrel sitting to your right and a prairie dog sitting to your left. We are not beavers.
A rock shelter makes a great home for a marmot.
When content, marmots will lay out in the sun, catching some rays and watching the world go by.
Marmots use steep sheltered areas as a means of protection from both the weather and predators.
You can’t beat the view from where marmots live.