Wild Fact #699 – Whistling a Mountain Tune – Hoary Marmot

Hoary Marmot - Photo by Damean Kuhn

The second animal featured in Wild Facts – “Animals of the Canadian Rockies”  is the Hoary Marmot.  Now you may be looking at this picture and thinking that it looks similar to a ground squirrel.  I would have to say you are pretty observant as the Hoary Marmot is actually the largest ground squirrel found in North America.  If you want to check out this marmot then you are in luck since they are actually one of the most widespread alpine marmots out there.  They can be found all the way from Alaska through northwestern Canada and into the northern United States including Montana and Idaho.  Around my house in the Yukon, you can find these large ground squirrels in the Ogilvie Mountain range.  The next time you are visiting I will make sure to take you up there to check them out.

Of course you will have to plan your visit wisely since these Hoary Marmots are intelligent and will actually hibernate for 7 or 8 months of the year.  They do this by creating burrows into the soil which are usually protected by large boulders. I have said it before and I will say it again, hibernating animals have to be the smartest animals on this planet.  As you can imagine they must have a busy 4 months once they wake from their winter slumber.  Mating will usually occur near the end of hibernation with the females giving birth to 2 to 5 young during the spring.  The rest of the summer consists of playing, laying out in the sun, feeding and of course watching out for predators.  This actually sounds like a pretty good life.  Sleep all winter and play all summer, I like it.

Hoary Marmot Basking in the Sun - Photo by Walter Siegmund

Watching out for predators has to be one of the main focuses for these little marmots as they have numerous enemies including grizzly bears, black bears, eagles, wolves, etc.  The Hoary Marmot will usually warn its colony of danger by whistling a very high pitched shrill.  This whistling has caused them to be known as “The Whistler” or even better “The Whistle Pig” .  No matter how mean the names may be the Hoary Marmot will continue this whistling since it seems to be an effective warning call.

Hoary Marmot Fast Fact – A colony of Hoary Marmots usually has a territory range of about 9 hectares.  The dominant male will mark off this territory by rubbing a secretion generated from his facial glands on various boulders and burrows.

Thanks for checking out today’s animal found in the Canadian Rockies.  Stay tuned for more awesome animals of the Rocky Mountains.

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