Yellow-bellied marmot

romomarmot

Yellow-bellied marmot (Rodentia: Sciuridae: Marmota flaviventris) foraging in an alpine meadow. Photographed 08/06/2013 at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Of the six marmot species in North America only two have a widespread distribution. Groundhogs (Rodentia: Sciuridae: Marmota monax) are exceedingly common in the east, but yellow-bellied marmots (Rodentia: Sciuridae: Marmota flaviventris) dominate the mountainous west. These ground squirrels inhabit slopes from the Rockies to the Sierra Nevadas and are never far from their rocky burrows.

marmotview

Yellow-bellied marmot (Rodentia: Sciuridae: Marmota flaviventris) overlooking the Gore Range. Photographed 08/06/2013 at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Yellow-bellied marmots spend the short alpine summers gorging themselves mainly on grasses and other plants, and by autumn they can be rather plump. They hibernate in dens throughout the long winters and can lose about half of their body weight in that time. When they emerge in the spring eating is their top priority, but mating isn’t far behind.

marmot

Yellow-bellied marmot (Rodentia: Sciuridae: Marmota flaviventris) foraging in an alpine meadow. Photographed 08/06/2013 at Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

Males control small territories and defend several females against other males. Pregnant females only gestate for about a month, and their litters of approximately five young are weaned within a month after that. These rodents waste little time breeding and fattening up again in the few warm months that they’re active.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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