Articles on this page are available in 1 other language: Spanish (2) (learn more)

Overview

Brief Summary

Description

Hoary Marmots prefer treeless meadows with rocky outcrops and talus. They forage on forbs, grasses, and sedges. They tend to be gregarious. Groups of 5-8 feed together, with frequent bouts of greeting and grooming. As soon as they emerge from hibernation, in May, they mate. The young-of-the-year appear aboveground in July and have a short first year of activity. In September they disappear into hibernation, not to emerge until the following spring. The marmots become sexually mature when they are three years old, and from then on, females usually have a litter of 2-4 every other summer.

Links:
Mammal Species of the World
  • Original description: Eschscholtz, J., 1829.  Zoologischer Atlas, Part 2, p. 1, pl. 6.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution

Source: Smithsonian's North American Mammals

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Distribution

National Distribution

Canada

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

United States

Origin: Native

Regularity: Regularly occurring

Currently: Present

Confidence: Confident

Type of Residency: Year-round

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Global Range: Alaska to Yukon and Northwest Territories, south to northeastern Washington, central Idaho, western Montana.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Range Description

This species occurs from Alaska in the United States, southward through British Columbia, Yukon Territory, Northwest Territory and Alberta in Canada, to Washington, Idaho, and Montana in the United States. Although mostly montane in distribution, it occurs down to sea level in northern Alaska.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Geographic Range

Hoary marmots are one of the most widespread alpine mammals in North America, ranging from Alaska south through northwest Canada to Washington, Idaho, and Montana (Karels et al. 2004). They have a wide distribution in Alaska, including the Alaska Peninsula, Alaska Range, and White Mountains. In Canada, hoary marmots inhabit the Ogilvie Mountains in the Yukon Territory. They are found in the Cascades Mountain range, northern and central Rocky Mountains, the Beaverhead and Flint Creek Mountains of northwestern Montana, and the Salmon River mountains of central Idaho (Hoffmann et al. 1979).

Biogeographic Regions: nearctic (Native )

  • Hoffman, R., J. Koeppl, C. Nadler. 1979. The relationships of the amphiberingian marmots (Mammalia: Sciuridae). Occasional Papers of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas, 83: 1-56.
  • Karels, T., L. Koppel, D. Hik. 2004. Fecal pellet count as a technique for monitoring an alpine-dwelling social rodent, the hoary marmot (Marmota caligata). Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research, 36: 490-494.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Physical Description

Morphology

Physical Description

Hoary marmots weigh 8 to 10 kg and are from 45 to 57 cm in length, with males being slightly larger than females (Kyle et al. 2007). Tail length is 7 to 25 cm. Their coats are mostly black and white with hoary tips to the fur, base fur color varies geographically (Barash 1989, Hoffmann et al. 1979). They have a white patch between the eyes and across the rostrum, and the tips of their noses are white.  Hoary marmots differ from other marmots in that they have black feet. This is the basis of the species’ name caligata, which means “booted” (Hoffmann et al. 1979). They also have a black cap on their head that is larger than similar caps found in other species of marmots.  Marmots generally undergo a single annual molt. The onset of the molt varies, but can happen as soon as emergence from hibernation. By midsummer, molting is advanced in all individuals except the young of the year (Barash 1989). Hoary marmots have small eyes and small, rounded, furred ears. They have well-developed claws on their front feet for burrowing and 5 pats on their forepaws, 6 on their hind paws.

Range mass: 8 to 10 kg.

Average length: 50 cm.

Other Physical Features: endothermic ; homoiothermic; bilateral symmetry

Sexual Dimorphism: male larger

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Size

Length: 82 cm

Weight: 9000 grams

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Size in North America

Sexual Dimorphism: Males are larger than females.

Length:
Range: 625-850 mm

Weight:
Range: 5-6 kg
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Smithsonian Institution

Source: Smithsonian's North American Mammals

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Ecology

Habitat

Montana Valley and Foothill Grasslands Habitat

This taxon can be found in the Montana valley and foothill grasslands ecoregions, along with some other North American ecoregions. This ecoregion occupies high valleys and foothill regions in the central Rocky Mountains of Montana in the USA and Alberta, Canada. The ecoregion the uppermost flatland reaches of the Missouri River drainage involving part of the Yellowstone River basin, and extends into the Clark Fork-Bitterroot drainage of the Columbia River system. The ecoregion, consisting of three chief disjunctive units, also extends marginally into a small portion of northern Wyoming. Having moderate vertebrate species richness, 321 different vertebrate taxa have been recorded here.

The dominant vegetation type of this ecoregion consists chiefly of wheatgrass (Agropyron spp.) and fescue (Festuca spp.). Certain valleys, notably the upper Madison, Ruby, and Red Rock drainages of southwestern Montana, are distinguished by extensive sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) communities as well. This is a reflection of semi-arid conditions caused by pronounced rain shadow effects and high elevation. Thus, near the Continental Divide in southwestern Montana, the ecoregion closely resembles the nearby Snake/Columbia shrub steppe.

A number of mammalian species are found in the ecoregion, including: American Pika (Ochotona princeps), a herbivore preferring talus habitat; Bighorn Sheep (Ovis canadensis), Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus), who live in underground towns that may occupy vast areas; Brown Bear (Ursos arctos); Hoary Marmot (Marmota caligata), a species who selects treeless meadows and talus as habitat; and the Northern River Otter (Lontra canadensis), a species that can tolerate fresh or brackish water and builds its den in the disused burrows of other animals.

There are six distinct anuran species that can be found in the Montana valleys and foothills grasslands, including: Canadian Toad (Anaxyrus hemiophrys); Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas); Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens); Plains Spadefoot Toad (Spea bombifrons); Columbia Spotted Frog (Rana luteiventris), an anuran that typically breeds in shallow quiet ponds; and the Boreal Chorus Frog (Pseudacris maculata).

Exactly two amphibian taxa occurr in the ecoregion: Long-toed Salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum), a species who prefers lentic waters and spends most of its life hidden under bark or soil; Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum).

Reptilian species within the ecoregion are: Milk Snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), an adaptable taxon that can be found on rocky slopes, prairie and near streambeds; Painted Turtle (Chrysemys picta); Western Plains Garter Snake (Thamnophis radix), a taxon that can hibernate in the burrows of rodents or crayfish or even hibernate underwater; Yellow-bellied Racer (Coluber constrictor); Spiny Softshell Turtle (Apalone spinifera); Western Terrestrial Garter Snake (Thamnophis elegans); Rubber Boa (Charina bottae); Western Skink (Plestiodon skiltonianus); and the Western Rattlesnake (Crotalis viridis).

The ecoregion supports endemic and relict fisheries: Westslope Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarki lewisi), Yellowstone Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii bouvieri), and fluvial Arctic Grayling (Thymallus arcticus), a relict species from past glaciation.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© C. Michael Hogan & World Wildlife Fund

Supplier: C. Michael Hogan

Trusted

Article rating from 1 person

Average rating: 5.0 of 5

Comments: Talus slopes and alpine or subalpine meadows. Young are born in underground burrows.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Habitat and Ecology

Habitat and Ecology
It is found in treeless alpine meadows where there are rocky outcrops and talus. Young are born in underground burrows. Gives birth to 4-5 young in late spring or early summer after gestation period of about one month (Whitaker 1980). Diet consists almost entirely of grasses and other herbaceous plants (Burt and Grossenheider 1976). Hibernates October-February in south, September-April in British Columbia (Whitaker 1980).

Systems
  • Terrestrial
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Hoary marmots occupy areas with rocky talus slopes and alpine tundra vegetation (Kyle et al. 2007) and dig their burrows in these areas. Burrows provide shelter from predators and weather, marmots spend about 80% of their lives in them (Barash 1989). Entrances to marmot burrows are not easily identified because they simply appear as spaces between and/or under large boulders (Karels et al. 2004). The elevational range of hoary marmot habitats varies latitudinally; they are found at sea level in Alaska and only at higher elevations in the southern portions of their range.

Habitat Regions: temperate ; terrestrial

Terrestrial Biomes: tundra ; mountains

  • Barash, D. 1989. Marmots: Social Behavior and Ecology. Stanford, California, USA: Stanford University Press.
  • Kyle, C., T. Karels, C. Davis, B. Mebs, C. Clark, C. Strobeck, D. Hik. 2007. Social structure and facultative mating systems of hoary marmots (Marmota caligata). Molecular Ecology, 16: 1245-1255.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Migration

Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).

Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Trophic Strategy

Comments: Diet consists almost entirely of grasses and other herbaceous plants (Burt and Grossenheider 1976).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Food Habits

Hoary marmots are mostly herbivorous. Vetches, sedges, fleabanes, fescues, mosses, lichens, and willows collectively comprise about 90% of the overall diet of populations living on the Kenai Peninsula, while populations from mountainous regions prefer flowers and flower heads (Barash 1989, Hansen 1975). Marmot populations from different regions have similar diet-habitat characteristics even if less plant biomass is available. Hoary marmots do not select vegetation in proportion to the amount available, but rather show a preference for certain plants.  Hoary marmots spend most of their above-ground time foraging. They appear to prefer each other’s company, feeding in groups. Feeding groups of up to 8 animals can occur. However, these groups are loosely organized and dynamic in terms of membership (Barash 1989).

Plant Foods: leaves; flowers

Primary Diet: herbivore (Folivore )

  • Hansen, R. 1975. Foods of the hoary marmot on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. American Midland Naturalist, 94: 348-353.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Associations

Ecosystem Roles

Hoary marmots are good candidates as indicator species because alpine ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to climate change (Krajick 2004). Compared to other alpine species, they have little commercial value in North America and hardly experience any human-related mortality. Changes in their populations could be indicative of other large-scale impacts. Long-term population dynamics of hoary marmots may also provide an indication of changes in alpine snowpack, plant phenology and abundance, or predators (Karels et al. 2004).

The feces of hoary marmots are important to pikas, which have been observed consuming these droppings. Dried fecal pellets of hoary marmots have been found in haypiles made by pikas (MacDonald and Jones 1987). Marmot feces may be important for soil as well. Soil surrounding marmot burrows is thought to be quite high in nutrients because marmots tend to deposit fecal matter in these areas (Bowman and Seastedt 2001).

Ecosystem Impact: soil aeration

  • Bowman, W., T. Seastedt. 2001. Structure and Function of an Alpine Ecosystem: Niwot Ride, Colorado. USA: Oxford University Press.
  • Krajick, K. 2004. All Downhill from Here?. Science Magazine, 303: 1600-1602.
  • MacDonald, S., C. Jones. 1987. Ochotona collaris. Mammalian Species, 281: 1-4.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Predation

Hoary marmots are eaten by a variety of predators, including golden eagles, lynx, coyotes, grizzlies, and wolverines. Predator avoidance appears to exert a strong influence on foraging patterns, and marmots have been known to remain in their burrows for many hours following the appearance of a predator (Barash 1989). They also use alarm calls to alert one another if a predator has entered their foraging area.

Known Predators:

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Life History and Behavior

Behavior

Communication and Perception

Hoary marmot alarm calls tend to be loud, relatively short, and are associated with predators or agitation (Barash 1989, Blumstein and Armitage 1997). Hoary marmots also use visual signals to communicate. The clearest visual signal is an upraised tail, which appears to signal aggression towards other members of the colony (Barash 1989).

Communication Channels: visual ; acoustic

Perception Channels: visual ; acoustic

  • Blumstein, D., K. Armitage. 1997. Does Sociality Drive the Evolution of Communicative Complexity? A Compartive Test with Ground-dwelling Sciurid Alarm Calls. The American Naturalist, 150: 179-200.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Cyclicity

Comments: Hibernates October-February in south, September-April in British Columbia (Whitaker 1980). Begins hibernation in mid-September in Alaska (Lee and Funderburg 1982).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Life Expectancy

Lifespan/Longevity

Weight at hibernation is significantly related to overwinter mortality, which is highest among young of the year. Winter mortality during hibernation is often more predictable than predation, and the mortality of males is higher than that of females (Barash 1989).

Range lifespan

Status: captivity:
12.1 (high) years.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

Maximum longevity: 12.1 years (captivity) Observations: One wild born specimen was about 12.1 years old when it died in captivity (Richard Weigl 2005). Maximum longevity could be underestimated, though.
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 (CC BY 3.0)

© Joao Pedro de Magalhaes

Source: AnAge

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Reproduction

Gives birth to 4-5 young in late spring or early summer after gestation period of about 1 month (Whitaker 1980).

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Mating occurs shortly after emergence in the spring. Typical mating behavior involves the male approaching the female, sniffing her (possibly to determine if she is reproductive), then mounting her dorsoventrally. The female, when mounted, lifts her tail and holds it to one side. Successful mounts may last 30 seconds to 8 minutes. Non-reproductive females usually fight against an attempted mount, while reproductive females are more tolerant (Barash 1989). Sniffing, fighting, and chasing are all examples of marmot reproductive behavior. Originally, northern populations of hoary marmots were thought to be predominantly monogamous, while southern populations were thought to be both monogamous and polygynous. Recent studies suggest that mating among hoary marmots is more flexible than previously thought, varying between monogamy and polygyny. This may reflect local variation and resource availability (Kyle et al. 2007).

Mating System: monogamous ; polygynous

Females reproduce every other year, with an average litter size of 3.3, range 2 to 5 (Barash 1989, Armitage 2003). Yearlings remain in their natal colony and disperse the following year as two-year-olds, which is the age of sexual maturity. The reproductive cycle lasts 10 weeks, and gestation lasts about 4 weeks. Estrous in reproductive females occurs about 1 to 2 weeks after emergence from the hibernation and only occurs once yearly (Barash 1989).

Breeding interval: Hoary marmot females breed once every two years, although they go into estrous each year.

Breeding season: Hoary marmots breed in the early spring, shortly after emergence from hibernation.

Range number of offspring: 2 to 5.

Average number of offspring: 3.3.

Average gestation period: 4 weeks.

Average weaning age: 2 weeks.

Average time to independence: 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female): 2 years.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (male): 2 years.

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); viviparous

Average gestation period: 29 days.

Average number of offspring: 4.2.

Average age at sexual or reproductive maturity (female)

Sex: female:
908 days.

As the breeding season progresses, adult males and females become less closely associated. When the young of the year are born, females provide more parental care than males and are the most watchful during the two-week period of their young’s emergence (Barash 1989). Young of the year are born blind and naked, except for vibrissae and short hair on the muzzle, chin, and head. Crawling (backward and forward) and teat seeking are the first movements to occur (Armitage 2003). Young of the year are weaned between the third week of July and the first week of August. Even though adult males are larger than adult females, increases in size are relatively constant between sexes during development. Hair gradually develops from head to tail, and more rapidly on the back than on the belly (Armitage 2003).

Parental Investment: altricial ; pre-fertilization (Provisioning, Protecting: Female); pre-hatching/birth (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); pre-weaning/fledging (Provisioning: Female, Protecting: Female); post-independence association with parents

  • Armitage, K. 2003. Wild Mammals of North America: biology, management, and conservation. Maryland, USA: John Hopkins University Press.
  • Barash, D. 1989. Marmots: Social Behavior and Ecology. Stanford, California, USA: Stanford University Press.
  • Kyle, C., T. Karels, C. Davis, B. Mebs, C. Clark, C. Strobeck, D. Hik. 2007. Social structure and facultative mating systems of hoary marmots (Marmota caligata). Molecular Ecology, 16: 1245-1255.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Conservation

Conservation Status

National NatureServe Conservation Status

Canada

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

United States

Rounded National Status Rank: N5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

NatureServe Conservation Status

Rounded Global Status Rank: G5 - Secure

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

IUCN Red List Assessment


Red List Category
LC
Least Concern

Red List Criteria

Version
3.1

Year Assessed
2008

Assessor/s
Linzey, A.V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.)

Reviewer/s
Amori, G. (Small Nonvolant Mammal Red List Authority) & Chanson, J. (Global Mammal Assessment Team)

Contributor/s

Justification
Listed as Least Concern because it is widespread, common in suitable habitat, there are no major threats.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Hoary marmots have a stable population trend and are considered a species of least concern. The state of Alaska, however, considers two subspecies of hoary marmots to be of conservation concern: Montague Island marmots (M. c. sheldoni) and Glacier Bay marmots (M. c. vigilis). Montague Island marmots were last seen at the turn of the 20th century and are considered a species of concern because of lack of sightings. Because these marmots are endemic to Montague Island, they may face a higher risk of extinction. The state of Alaska also considers Glacier Bay marmots to be a subspecies of concern due to its endemism and presumed small population size. In addition, there is lingering taxonomic uncertainty regarding both of these subspecies.

US Federal List: no special status

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

  • MacDonald, S., J. Cook. 2007. Mammals and amphibians of Southeast Alaska. The Museum of Southwestern Biology, Special Publication, 8: 1-191.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Population

Population
This species is considered secure in its range (NatureServe).

Population Trend
Stable
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Threats

Major Threats
There are no major threats to this species.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Management

Conservation Actions

Conservation Actions
This species is not of conservation concern and its range includes a few protected areas.
Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources

Source: IUCN

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems

Benefits

Economic Importance for Humans: Negative

There are no known negative impacts associated with hoary marmots. Hoary marmots inhabit areas with low human population densities.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Economic Importance for Humans: Positive

Hoary marmot hides were prized by northwestern Native Americans, mainly for clothing. Marmots were hunted after the molt, and their hides were used in potlatch ceremonies. Their hides were also used as a sort of currency, measuring wealth among Tlingit and Gitksan tribes (Armitage 2003).

Positive Impacts: food ; body parts are source of valuable material

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-NC-SA 3.0)

© The Regents of the University of Michigan and its licensors

Source: Animal Diversity Web

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Wikipedia

Hoary marmot

The hoary marmot (Marmota caligata) is a species of marmot that inhabits the mountains of northwest North America. Hoary marmots live near the tree line on slopes with grasses and forbs to eat and rocky areas for cover.

It is the largest North American ground squirrel and is often nicknamed "the whistler" for its high-pitched warning issued to alert other members of the colony to possible danger. The animals are sometimes called "whistle pigs". Whistler, British Columbia, originally London Mountain because of its heavy fogs and rain, was renamed for these animals to help make it more marketable as a resort.[2] The closest relatives of the species are the yellow-bellied, Olympic, and Vancouver Island marmots, although the exact relationships are unclear.[3][4]

Description[edit]

Hoary marmot near Helen Lake, Banff National Park, Canada

The hoary marmot is a large, bulky, ground squirrel, with short, heavy limbs, and a broad head. Adults range from 62 to 82 cm (24 to 32 in) in total length, including a 17 to 25 cm (6.7 to 9.8 in) tail. The species is sexually dimorphic, with males being significantly larger than females in most subspecies. Because of their long winter hibernation, during which they survive on fat reserves, the weight of the animals varies considerably over the course of the year, from an average of 3.75 kg (8.3 lb) in May to around 7 kg (15 lb) in September, for a fully grown adult.[5] A few fall adults can weigh up to 10 kg (22 lb), with exceptional ones attaining 13.5 kg (30 lb).[6] It is reportedly the largest member of the squirrel family, though the slightly lighter alpine marmot is sometimes titled this as well.[7]

The word "hoary" refers to the silver-gray fur on their shoulders and upper back; the remainder of the upper parts have drab- or reddish-brown fur. The head is black on the upper surface, with a white patch on the muzzle, white fur on the chin and around the lips, and grizzled black or brown fur elsewhere. The feet and lower legs are black, sometimes with white patches on the fore feet. Marmots have long guard hairs that provide most of the visible colour of their pelage, and a dense, soft underfur that provides insulation. The greyish underparts of the body lack this underfur, and are more sparsely haired than the rest of the body.[8] Hoary marmots moult in the early to mid summer.[5]

The feet have slightly curved claws, which are somewhat larger on the fore feet than on the hind feet. The feet have hairless pads, enhancing their grip. The tail is long, slightly flattened, and covered with dense fur. Apart from the larger size of the males, both sexes have a similar appearance. Females have five pairs of teats, running from the pectoral to the inguinal regions.[5]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The hoary marmot inhabits mountainous environments from sea level to 2,500 metres (8,200 ft) elevation, through much of Alaska, western Canada, and the extreme northwest of the contiguous United States.[1] They live above the tree line, at elevations from sea level to 2,500 metres (8,200 ft), depending on latitude, in rocky terrain or alpine meadows dominated by grasses, sedges, herbs, and Krummholz forest patches.[5] Fossils are known dating back to the Pleistocene, including some from islands no longer inhabited by the species.[9]

The three currently recognised subspecies are:

Behaviour and diet[edit]

Hoary marmots are diurnal and herbivorous, subsisting on leaves, flowers, grasses, and sedges. Predators include golden eagles, grizzly and black bears, wolves, coyotes, red foxes, lynxes, cougars and wolverines. They live in colonies of up to 36 individuals, with a home range averaging about 14 hectares (35 acres). Each colony includes a single, dominant, adult male, up to three adult females, sometimes with a subordinate adult male, and a number of young and subadults up to two years of age.[5]

Basking behavior, Mount Rainier National Park

The marmots hibernate seven to eight months a year in burrows they excavate in the soil, often among or under boulders. Each colony typically maintain a single hibernaculum and a number of smaller burrows, used for sleeping and refuge from predators. The refuge burrows are the simplest and most numerous type, consisting of a single bolt hole 1 to 2 metres (3 ft 3 in to 6 ft 7 in) deep. Each colony digs an average of five such burrows a year, and a mature colony may have over a hundred. Sleeping burrows and hibernacula are larger and more complex, with multiple entrances, deep chambers lined with plant material, and stretching to a depth of about 3.5 metres (11 ft). A colony may have up to 9 regular sleeping burrows, in addition to the larger hibernaculum.[10]

Many forms of social behaviour have been observed among hoary marmots, including play fighting, wrestling, social grooming, and nose-to-nose touching. Such activity becomes particularly frequent as hibernation approaches. Interactions with individuals from other colonies are less common, and usually hostile, with females chasing away intruders. Hoary marmots are also vocal animals, with at least seven distinct types of calls, including chirps, whistles, growls, and whining sounds.[11] Many of these calls are used as alarms, alerting other animals to potential predators. They also communicate using scent, both by defecation, and by marking rocks or plants using scent glands on their cheeks.[5]

Hoary marmots frequently sun themselves on rocks, spending as much as 44% of their time in the morning doing so, although they will shelter in their burrows or otherwise seek shade in especially warm weather. They forage for the rest of the day, returning to their burrows to sleep during the night.[5]

In areas frequented by people, hoary marmots are not shy. Rather than running away at first sight, they will often go about their business[clarification needed] while being watched.[citation needed]

Mating occurs after hibernation, and two to four young are born in the spring. Males establish "harems", but may also visit females in other territories.

Reproduction[edit]

Hoary marmots breed shortly after,[12] or even before,[13] their emergence from hibernation burrows in May. Courtship consists of sniffing the genital region, followed by mounting, although mounting has also been observed between females. Females typically raise litters only in alternate years, although both greater and lesser frequencies have been reported on occasion.[5][13]

Gestation lasts 25 to 30 days, so the litter of two to five young is born between late May and mid-June.[12] The young emerge from their birth den at three to four weeks of age, by which time they have a full coat of fur and are already beginning to be weaned.[14] The young are initially cautious, but begin to exhibit the full range of nonreproductive adult behavior within about four weeks of emerging from the burrow. Subadults initially remain with their birth colony, but typically leave at two years of age, becoming fully sexually mature the following year.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Linzey, A. V. & NatureServe (Hammerson, G.) (2008). Marmota caligata. In: IUCN 2008. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Retrieved 6 January 2009.
  2. ^ BritishColumbia.com – Whistler, British Columbia
  3. ^ Kruckenhauser, L., et al. (1999). "Marmot phylogeny revisited: molecular evidence for a diphyletic origin of sociality". Journal of Zoological Systematics and Evolutionary Research 37 (1): 59–56. doi:10.1046/j.1439-0469.1999.95100.x. 
  4. ^ Steppan, S.J., et al. (1999). "Molecular phylogeny of the marmots (Rodentia: Sciuridae): tests of evolutionary and biogeographic hypotheses". Systematic Biology 48 (4): 715–634. doi:10.1080/106351599259988. PMID 12066297. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Braun, J.K., et al. (2011). "Marmota caligata (Rodentia: Sciuridae)". Mammalian Species 43 (1): 155–171. doi:10.1644/884.1. 
  6. ^ Hoary Marmot: Natural History Notebooks. Nature.ca. Retrieved on 2013-10-10.
  7. ^ Yukon College: Research Publications. Taiga.net. Retrieved on 2013-10-10.
  8. ^ Hoffmann, R.S., et al. (1979). "The relationships of the Amphiberingian marmots (Mammalia: Sciuridae)". Occasional Papers of the Museum of Natural History, University of Kansas 83: 1–56. 
  9. ^ Heaton, T.H., et al. (1996). "An ice age refugium for large mammals in the Alexander Archipelago, southeastern Alaska". Quaternary Research 46 (2): 186–192. doi:10.1006/qres.1996.0058. 
  10. ^ Holmes, W.G. (1984). "Predation risk and foraging behavior of the hoary marmot in Alaska". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 15 (4): 293–301. doi:10.1007/BF00292992. 
  11. ^ Taulman, J.F. (1977). "Vocalizations of the hoary marmot, Marmota caligata". Journal of Mammalogy 58 (4): 681–683. doi:10.2307/1380026. JSTOR 1380026. 
  12. ^ a b Barash, D.P. (1981). "Mate guarding and gallivanting by male hoary marmots (Marmota caligata)". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 9 (3): 187–193. doi:10.1007/BF00302936. 
  13. ^ a b Kyle CJ, Karels TJ, Davis CS, Mebs S, Clark B, Strobeck C, Hik DS (2007). "Social structure and facultative mating systems of hoary marmots (Marmota caligata)". Molecular Ecology 16 (5): 1245–1255. doi:10.1111/j.1365-294X.2006.03211.x. PMID 17391410. 
  14. ^ Barash, D.P. (1980). "The influence of reproductive status on foraging by hoary marmots (Marmota caligata)". Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 7 (3): 201–205. doi:10.1007/BF00299365. JSTOR 4599328. 

Further reading[edit]

Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Source: Wikipedia

Unreviewed

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Names and Taxonomy

Taxonomy

Comments: Hall (1981) treated M. broweri as a subspecies of M. caligata, but stated that he was uncertain as to whether it was a subspecies or a species; he cited other sources in pointing out the unusually low chromosome number in M. broweri (2n = 36). Jones et al. (1992) and Hoffman et al. (in Wilson and Reeder 1993) and Thorington and Hoffmann (in Wilson and Reeder 2005) recognized M. broweri and M. caligata as distinct species.

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial 3.0 (CC BY-NC 3.0)

© NatureServe

Source: NatureServe

Trusted

Article rating from 0 people

Average rating: 2.5 of 5

Disclaimer

EOL content is automatically assembled from many different content providers. As a result, from time to time you may find pages on EOL that are confusing.

To request an improvement, please leave a comment on the page. Thank you!