Marmot Crossing

grbamarmot

“Marmot Crossing” sign photographed 05/19/2016 at Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Last week I spent a couple of nights camping at Great Basin National Park in east-central Nevada. One point of interest was a stretch of road near Baker Creek that was crawling with yellow-bellied marmots (Rodentia: Sciuridae: Marmota flaviventris). So many of these small mammals were scurrying across the road here that I had to drive very slowly to avoid squashing any.

grbamarmot5

Yellow-bellied marmot photographed 05/19/2016 at Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

A western relative of the eastern woodchuck (M. monax), these marmots are sometimes called “rockchucks.” Living mostly among rocky slopes they dig burrows in coarse gravel and sand. They hibernate underground from autumn through the winter, and once spring arrives they begin their activities in earnest.

grbamarmot3

Yellow-bellied marmot photographed 05/19/2016 at Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

In April and May one of their primary activities is breeding. Males tend to form harems and typically guard three or four females and their offspring. Females gestate for only about 30 days so new marmot pups are a common sight in May and June.

grbamarmot4

Yellow-bellied marmot pup photographed 05/19/2016 at Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Once reproduction is out of the way these animals focus the rest of the summer season mostly on eating. They feed on the stems, leaves, flowers, and seeds of a wide variety of plants. They are not picky eaters, and this generalist herbivory has allowed them to flourish throughout the North American west.

grbamarmot2

Yellow-bellied marmot photographed 05/19/2016 at Great Basin National Park, Nevada.

Advertisements

About Jeremy Sell

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

One Response to Marmot Crossing

  1. Miriam says:

    Looks like a lot of wonderful company camping.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s