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The name of the hoary Marmot (Marmota Caligata) comes from its frosty white fur on both its head and shoulder. This eight-to-twenty-pound rodent’s piercing warning whistling can be heard in high mountain meadows, talus slopes, and from northern Alaska, to Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Montana. Hoary marmots have a curious nature, and it’s not uncommon to see the creatures interacting with mountain goat kids.
The animal hides from its main predator, eagles and other predators, in burrows under boulders. But grizzlys can dig tunnels under the rocks and move the boulders to get the marmot. Hoary marmots enter their dens in September and go into a dormant condition. Their respiration rate and heartbeat become extremely slow, and their body temperature falls to a point only a few degrees above freezing They don’t emerge until June, nine months later. Even then, they may have to tunnel through a snowpack that is still lingering to reach the light. Hoary marmots, perhaps as an adaptation to their demanding alpine habitat, are more sociable than other marmots, such as the common eastern relative the woodchuck or the groundhog. They live in colonies where there is little aggression among the adults and the young aren’t driven out as they mature. The rodents take two years to mature, which is long by rodent standards. Such slow development reflects the extended hibernation period required to survive in this animal’s high-country niche.*
Find your own Marmot in July when they are out foraging. Join Art Wolfe’s Mt. Rainier workshopJuly is here!
*Text excerpt from “The Kingdom”