Big Sky Wildlife Spotlight: Marmots

Marmot | Pixabay Image
Marmot | Pixabay Image

The next time you're on a hike in Big Sky Country, keep an eye out for marmots. Marmots are closely related to large ground squirrels and prairie dogs. They are a common sight in the mountains around Big Sky - especially when you get into the higher elevations.

There are 3 species of marmots in Montana: Yellow-Bellied, Hoary, and Woodchuck. When you're in Big Sky Country, you're most likely to see the Yellow-Bellied Marmot. These fun creatures are often referred to as "rock chucks" or "whistle pigs."

The mountains of the Lee Metcalf Wilderness, Yellowstone National Park, and the entire Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is prime habitat for marmots. So grab your camera and see if you can spot these cool creatures!

Let's take a look at some interesting facts about marmots:

Marmot | Pixabay Image
Marmot | Pixabay Image

  • The marmot's scientific name is the Marmota flaviventris.
  • This creature was first described by John James Audubon and John Bachman in 1841.
  • Marmots weigh 3 to 11 pounds. They are typically 13 to 20 inches from head to tail. The tail can be 4 to 8 inches long.
  • They are yellowish to brown in color with small furry ears and strong claws.
  • Marmots are short-sighted.
  • They are most active during the day - especially in the morning and afternoon.
  • These herbivores eat plants, seeds, grass, and shrubs.
  • Predators include foxes, coyotes, wolves, badgers, bears, and eagles.
  • When predators approach, marmots make a high pitched, whistle-like sound to alert others.
  • Marmots live in harems of 1 male and 2 or 3 females. These harems live in larger groups called colonies.
  • Males are territorial.
  • A marmot's territory covers 4 to 7 acres.
  • They typically live in rocky areas or talus fields in alpine settings.
  • Sometimes they can be spotted "sunning" on the rocks during the day.
  • Marmots are active from March to September. The rest of the year they hibernate, but they can wake up mid winter if necessary. Approximately 60% of their life is spent hibernating.
  • Approximately 80% of a marmot's life is spent underground.

Marmot On The Rocks | Pixabay Image
Marmot On The Rocks | Pixabay Image

  • Marmots have extensive dens and burrows systems with multiple entrances, tunnels, and exits that are used for shelter, hibernation, and breeding.
  • Typically burrows are about 3 feet deep, but burrows for hibernation are about 23 feet deep!
  • A marmot's gestation period is approximately 30 days. Babies leave the dens after 3 weeks. They are sexually mature at 2 years.
  • Females have litters of 3 to 8 young at irregular intervals (not every year).
  • Marmots live up to 15 years in the wild.

When you spot a marmot in the wild, hopefully you remember some of these interesting facts about marmots. Feel free to share these cool facts with your hiking partners or impress your buddies at trivia night.

If you capture a cool wildlife photo of a marmot in the mountains near Big Sky, please share it on social media with #visitbigsky.

See Also:

Learn more interesting facts about marmots from these sources: