Marmot is a large squirrel species. It belongs in the Marmota genus with 15 species spread across North America, Asia, and Europe. These animals are active during the summertime while they hibernate during winter. Marmots are social animals that move in groups and have a plant diet.
In this article, we will talk about these animals in general while focusing on what do marmots eat.
Marmots Habits and biology
Marmots mainly live in the mountains. For example, you can find them in Pyrenees, Alps, Pacific Ranges, Sierra Nevada, Ladakh, Deosai Plateau, etc. Certain marmot species like rough grassland and these animals are mainly present in Eurasian Steppe and North America.
Marmots can usually be found in burrows where they hibernate and keep their young.
They love rockpiles but are also present in other types of terrain. These animals are very vocal and friendly. Marmots utilize high-pitched whistles to talk to each other. By using sounds, they can alert each other of imminent danger.
The animal has a plant-based diet focusing on almost anything green. Commonly, marmots will eat things such as roots, mosses, lichens, various types of grass, berries, and flowers.
One of their most dominant characters is their short, big legs. However, you shouldn’t underestimate their claws, as animals use them to dig into various types of terrain. Depending on the species, marmots can have fur of various colors. It usually matches their surroundings, allowing them to camouflage within their environment.
Here are some of their interesting habits:
- Alpine marmots live within a family structure. One family can have between 10 to 20 young, living together with their parents until maturity.
- Marmots love socializing with themselves. Regardless of age, they will groom each other and greet by rubbing noses.
- Although social with other family members, they tend to be very ferocious against predators and other strangers that trespass onto their territory.
- Females mark borders of their territory with the secretion they get from cheek glands. They will smear it all over nearby rocks and trees, and if someone trespasses, they tend to be more aggressive than males (especially if they have young ones).
- One family holds domain over the same burrows. They have numerous tunnels up to 10 feet long that lead to the main room called the den. This is where all marmots hibernate together during winter. When the winter comes around, they will close entrances with hay or grass.
What do marmots eat in the wild?
Marmots are omnivores. They will eat lots of different food, including grass, insects, weed, grass, flowers, bird eggs, etc. Like with everything else, they hunt and eat as members of a family. While other marmots eat, one of them will remain in the open, looking for potential predators. If it notices potential danger, it will notify the others by loudly whistling.
Marmots need to get as fat as possible during spring and summer.
As they are hibernating animals, they will need a lot of food to create fat deposits keeping them healthy and satiated during winter. Furthermore, marmots will be relatively lazy during spring and summer, spending a lot of time in the sun. That way, they won’t spend a lot of energy.
Here are some of the main things they eat in the wild:
- Various plants and grass
- Mosses, lichens, and roots
- Different types of grain and nuts
- Small insects
- Animal eggs
An interesting thing about marmots’ diet is that they can eat plants otherwise poisonous to most other animals. So in that sense, they are very similar to rodents.
As you can presume, fats are crucial for their survival. Therefore, they try to gain as much weight as possible, and they will weigh much more in the fall in comparison to the spring. During the summer, they can gain up to five pounds.
The animal benefits from various minerals and vitamins it gets from plants. It isn’t that protein-dependent like some other species however, it still needs to have enough energy deposits to survive the winter.
23 Facts about marmots
There are so many interesting things about this species. Here are some of the most intriguing facts about the animal:
- The species’ scientific name is Marmota flaviventris. They were described by scientists John Bachman and James Aubudon in 1841.
- Experts sometimes call this animal whistle pig.
- Marmot loves being warm and in the open. They can lay down on rocks for hours without end. Besides relaxing, this is a good way for them to retain energy.
- Although marmots have a very good sense of hearing, some of their other senses are not as developed. For example, they can barely see objects in the distance. Among others, this is the reason why families are so dependent on scouts.
- A marmot family’s territory can be quite huge. In some cases, it will have more than 7 acres of land. The animals are very territorial, and they will go to enormous lengths to protect them.
- This species has a very complex colony system that they use to enter the dan and escape from it. The burrow system has numerous exits and entrances that the animal can use.
- Most marmots weigh between 3 to 12 pounds. This doesn’t include specimens that were in captivity. They go from 12 to 20 inches if you measure them from tail to head. Like with many similar animals, the tail is a big part of their body. It can be from four to eight inches long.
- Besides tails, marmots are easily recognizable due to their sharp, big teeth. The shape of their teeth resembles the shape of all other rodents. To keep their sharp and short, the members of this species will constantly gnaw on something.
- Marmots are the main food for numerous forest predators. This includes wolves, badgers, bears, foxes, coyotes, and eagles.
- The animal goes out of its burrows during the morning and the evenings.
- Males are very dominant. Besides the fact they fiercely protect their territory and attack and rivals, they also have several females. In most cases, one marmot will have two or three of them. Each colony has several harems.
- Although marmots will hibernate most of the winter, there are situations when they might wake up. This usually occurs during mid-winter. Otherwise, the species will spend the majority of their life sleeping. According to experts, they might spend around 60% of their life hibernating.
- Due to the fact they have so many natural enemies and, at the same time, such poor eyesight, marmots are heavily reliant on their burrow system for survival. As a result, they spend approximately 80% of their life within the dan and tunnels.
- Although a normal burrow will be about three feet deep, burrows for hibernation can go all the way to 23 feet below.
- On average, marmot will live approximately 15 years in the wild.
- The females of this species have quite irregular litters. Therefore, they might breed every few years, giving birth to three to eight young marmots.
- Babies will remain in the den for at least three weeks. The animals reach sexual maturity at two years of age.
- Marmots can live with their parents for several years until finally going someplace else. They usually share the den with other family members, and it is common for the animal to inherit it. On rare occasions, the animal will live alone as a groundhog.
- The species utilizes various sounds to communicate. Besides screaming, they also use their teeth to create sounds, and they might also scream. Different pitches relay different information, and usually, they use higher pitches to signal imminent danger.
- The animal mates during spring. This occurs as soon as they wake up from hibernation. By doing so, the animal gives its young enough time to eat and create fat deposits that will keep them through the winter.
- Throughout history, marmots have been used as a source of fur, meat, and fat. Asians, Europeans, and Native Americans hunted these animals regularly.
- Marmot fur was a very popular item in 20th century Europe. The interesting thing is that Mongolians prepared more than 130,000 skins from 1906 to 1994, and they rarely relied on marmot fur throughout their history.
- It is not certain where we got the term marmot. According to some experts, it might have roots in Gallo-Romanic. It probably came from the word “marm,” which means to murmur. The second theory says that the word might be from Latin, from “mus montanu,” which translates to “mountain mouse.”
Marmots are family-oriented animals that live in series of underground tunnels. They hibernate during the winter, so the accumulation of fat deposits is crucial for their survival. The species focuses on plants, but they can also eat insects and eggs of other animals.
They have bad vision, but they compensate for it with good hearing. Marmots use various noises to notify other members of imminent danger.