Friday, April 27, 2018

Yellow-bellied Marmots Are Out

 The kids and I went up Baker Creek Road in Great Basin National Park one day after school to see if the yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris) were out. And lucky for us, they were easy to spot.

We traded in the van for an SUV that has a moonroof, and the kids had fun checking the marmots out through it.

Oh my, these are cute animals! Marmots are burrowing rodents. They also spend a lot of time out sunning themselves.

They weigh between 3.5 and 11 pounds, generally the lightest in early spring and the heaviest in late summer or early fall. Males weigh more than females.

Is this one doing yoga?

The marmots will live in colonies of up to 20 animals, with a dominant male. They eat a variety of plants, and occasionally insects and bird eggs. Coyotes are their major predator. Marmots seem to really like to dig into the road base, so they are frequently found on the Baker Creek road. They don't like to move, which makes it easier to take photos of them.

But that also means they get run over. So the park installed these Marmot Crossing signs. Can you find the marmot in the photo?

Marmots can live up to 15 years. They are one of the longest hibernating animals around. At this location, they typically come out of hibernation in March and go back in July, although the young will reawaken in September to eat more.

You can learn more about marmots here. Although they're supposed to whistle in alarm, I've never heard the ones along Baker Creek road do that.

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