Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Alpine Marmots - cute and furry creatures!!


I had a recent short trip to France for a wedding and there was no way I was travelling to the French Alps without going looking for marmots......

The alpine marmot, Marmota marmota has to be one of my favourite mammals - marmots  are classed as rodents but they are just so cute and I would liken them to giant guinea pigs. I could sit and watch marmots foraging and lolloping around for hours. Marmots are found in high mountain meadows and pastures. They are omnivores and eat grasses, herbs but will also eat worms, insects and spiders.

Alpine Marmot, Marmota marmota

Steve and I headed off for a walk the morning after the wedding and to be honest I wasn't expecting to see any marmots as we were on a pretty popular trail. However we decided to head off the beaten track and we hadn't been walking for long when I caught a glimpse of a marmot. At first the marmot was a little wary of us and headed into his burrow, but we sat quietly for a moment enjoying the sunshine until he came back out to investigate...

Entrance to a marmot burrow
Watching a marmot is pretty relaxing and I didn't really want to I just sat and then another marmot appeared....and then another. I found it all pretty mesmerizing. One of them lolloped away up the hillside but they didn't appear too worried by our presence or too startled.

Alpine Marmot, Marmota marmota

Although the marmots didn't seem too bothered by a couple of tourists they can be quite defensive and they will try and warn off intruders in their territory by beating their tails or chattering their teeth. Marmots can often be seen standing up tall to look out for predators and when they feel in real danger they will whistle a warning call to their fellow marmots.

Spot the marmots - there are two in this pic!
We had a bit more of a wander around and left the marmots to it. I found plenty more burrows and signs of marmot life. Marmots will dig out a burrow with both their forepaws and hindfeet and will also use their teeth to remove stones and pebbles. They make their bed at the end of the burrow out of grass and other herbs.

Stunning scenery in marmot land!

Further along the trail that day we met a group of hunters. They were out shooting grouse and ptarmigan. I asked if they were shooting marmots and they said they weren't today but that they do shoot marmots as they are classed a pests in some areas. 

As we approached the hunters, I heard the marmots whistling out a warning call high up on the mountainside. I am guessing they could smell, see or hear the dogs and they alerted each other. 

Alpine Marmot, Marmota marmota
So if you do ever get a chance to see marmots, stop and be quiet for a while and just enjoy being around these lovely creatures.

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