Rocky Mountain Marmot
by Dr. Sharif Galal
September 27, 2014
Marmots are rodents that belong to the same family of both ground squirrels and prairie dogs. There are currently 14 recognized species of marmot, each species have broad similarities. In Alberta, the most commonly found species are the Yellow-bellied and Hoary Marmots. The Hoary Marmots are colonial animals that live in the alpine zone. One of the largest rodents in the Rocky Mountains, Some of them can reach weights of up to 12 kilograms. Marmots can be seen on a number of day hikes in in Kananaskis area where I photographed this group close to Ing`s mine. Their fur is long and coarse. Their total body length ranges from 20 to 30 in. Male marmots are slightly larger and heavier than females. Tail length ranges 5 to 9in. They also have a thumb stump with a nail.
Marmots are diurnal rodents. They always seen lying on rocks especially during the sunny days. They tend to stay close to their dens to keep protected from badgers and wolverines which might attack them. Individuals spend most of their lives in a burrow with several entrances, which they excavate in well-drained soil. The burrows are approximately 3 ft. in depth, but hibernation burrows may be 16-22 feet deep. They usually stay active until mid-October then they go for hibernating until the next spring. The animal may emerge from hibernation from late February to April.
The gestation period is about a month. An adult female may have from three to eight young, they usually emerge from the den at about 30 days of age. They feed mainly on plants and caterpillars
Badgers, coyotes, eagles, horned owls, large hawks, and wolverines are known to feed on marmots. The marmot signals danger by emitting a loud whistle.
In Vancouver Island, Marmots are listed as endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) and the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species (COSEWIC), the Vancouver Island marmot is one of the rarest mammals in the world.
Dr. Sharif Galal is a medical doctor and a researcher of lung diseases at the University of Calgary. He received his M.D. from Egypt and his specialty degree in diving medicine from Stellenbosch University- South Africa in addition to a Master’s degree in biomedical sciences from university of Calgary. Apart from medicine and research, Dr. Galal is an amateur underwater photographer, scuba diving instructor and an enthusiastic wildlife and nature advocate. He currently resides in Calgary, Alberta and can be contacted at:
- Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory
- Parks Canada
- Marmot recovery foundation
View previous article by Dr. Galal - The Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa)
Ing's Mine Kananaskis
Youtube Video - How to Get to Ing's Mine by Dan Janzen
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