Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Marmots, Groundhogs & Rock Chucks

Marmots are large ground squirrels of the Marmota genus. There are 14 species of marmots split among two sub-genera. The marmota sub-genus contains all European and Asian marmots as well as the American woodchuck (or groundhog). The remaining American marmots, sometimes referred to as rock chucks, are contained within the petromarmota sub-genus.

Yellow bellied marmot
Marmots can be found throughout North America, Europe and Asia in mountainous regions such as the Rocky Mountains, the Alps, the Himalayas and the Carpathians up to elevations of 14,000 feet. The one exception to this is the woodchuck, a lowland-dwelling marmot found in the eastern United States and most of Canada.
Most marmots can be up to 22 inches in length and weigh 7-18lbs. Fur color differs by species and molting occurs each spring. Marmots usually live in self-dug burrows, or in the case of the yellow-bellied marmot, under rock piles; they hibernate 7-8 months out of the year.

Marmots are primarily herbivores and eat a wide variety of plants, flowers and seeds. However they have been known on rare occasions to eat insects as well. .
The Alpine marmot of central and southern Europe
Marmots are social animals and usually live either in mated pairs or in a harem consisting of one breeding male, several female mates and their young. They communicate with each other using a variety of visual and audio signals such as whistles, screams and tooth chattering. Scent glands are also used for territorial marking and conflict resolution between males.

Marmots usually mate and give birth in the spring after emerging from hibernation. Litters of four are average, and all will be expected to disperse and find their own territories at one year of age.

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