Once again I am indulging my inner geek because I wanted to know more about these little critters. No doubt, this may be more than you ever wanted to know about them!
Marmots live in the western United States and southwestern Canada, including the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada. It inhabits steppes, meadows, talus fields and other open habitats, sometimes on the edge of deciduous or coniferous forests, and typically above 6,500 feet of elevation.
Their territory is about 4 to 7 acres around a number of summer burrows. Marmots choose to dig burrows under rocks because predators are less likely to see their burrow. Predators include wolves, foxes, coyotes and eagles (and I asked several people if the knew the answer to this question!). When a marmot sees a predator, it whistles to warn all other marmots in the area (giving it the nickname “whistle pig”). Then it typically hides in a nearby rock pile.
Marmots reproduce when about two years old, and may live up to an age of fifteen years. They reside in colonies of about ten to twenty individuals. Each male marmot digs a burrow soon after he wakes up from hibernation. He then starts looking for females, and by summer may have up to four female mates living with him. Litters usually average three to five offspring per female. Only about half of those pups survive and become yearlings. Marmots have a “harem-polygynous” mating system in which the male defends two or three mates at the same time. Female offspring tend to stay in the area around their home. Male offspring typically leave when they are yearlings and will defend one or more females.
Marmots spend about 80% of their life in their burrow, 60% of which is spent hibernating. They often spend mid-day and night in a burrow as well. These burrows are usually constructed on a slope, such as a hill, mountain, or cliff. The hibernation burrows are can be up to 16 to 23 ft deep, but the burrows constructed for daily use are usually only 3.3 ft deep. Their hibernation period varies on elevation, but it is typically from September to May. Occasionally, they will climb trees and other flora, but they are usually terrestrial.
The marmot is also an omnivore, eating grass, grains, leaves, flowers, legumes, fruit, grasshoppers, and bird eggs.
Ok, back to the art stuff…After my marmot encounter I continued up the trail to the glacier for another attempt at painting the awe inspiriting vista.
Here I am making another attempt to capture this HUGE vista…alas another rather unsuccessful painting.
From here I headed back down to paint at the falls.
Here are some images of the painting.
And of course, here is another supervisory visits by the goats!