Saturday, February 2, 2008

Happy Marmot Day

"Mott," the Yellow-bellied Marmot.

Not exactly a Groundhog, but same genus (Marmota). There are four Marmota species in BC, including this day's namesake rodent, the Ground Hog (M. monax), which is found in the south of the province in the Rocky and Columbia Mountains, and much of the central and northern interior. Another montane species is the Hoary Marmot, M. caligata, widespread throughout mountainous areas of mainland BC. It is replaced, or was, on Vancouver Island by the critically endangered Vancouver Island Marmot, M. vancouverensis, which was limited to isolated pockets in moutainous terrain in south-central Vancouver Island. There is now an intensive captive-breeding and release program for this species, carried on in part by the Mountainview Conservation & Breeding Centre in Langley, BC, which is having encouraging results.

The fourth, and my favourite, marmot is the Yellow-bellied, M. flaviventris, a laid-back species of the southern interior grasslands. On sunny summer days you see them lolling on the concrete traffic barriers along the highway on the way into Kamloops . A few years ago, one yellow-belly somehow made its way to the coast (in a load of lumber?) and took up residence in my mother-in-law's back yard in Surrey. It made itself at home in a clay heating duct left protruding from the ground after a greenhouse had been removed. Mother-in-law was initially alarmed at the arrival of "the creature," but we convinced her that the marmot was a blessing, that it would keep the weeds in check in the garden. She soon grew fond of the marmot, which became named "Mott," and every day provided it a tossed salad. He was a very happy marmot for a while, but the call of the wild, and more iceberg lettuce than any marmot could or should eat, sent him on his way. We were all disappointed, but understood, for Surrey is no place for a marmot.

Mott's Surrey home.


Cicero Sings said...

I doubt any marmots peeked out here today ... given the snow cover. There is a golf course in town called Marmot Ridge and often, in summer, you see them perched around the periphery, watching the human traffic whizz by ... marmot entertainment. There was enough sun, however, that if they did pop out ... alas, there would have been a shadow!

A Local Naturalist said...

How nice to live among marmots. Are the yellow-bellies? I'm guessing they would be, although hoaries are found east and west of you in high terrain.

Yes, they are probably sound asleep; they are among the few true hibernators.

Keep warm,


BerryBird said...

I clearly remember my excitement at seeing my first marmot on a trip to Colorado in my youth. I may not have realized at the time just how closely related they are to our familiar woodchuck, but new species sightings are always noteworthy.

Cicero Sings said...

Yes, I just asked D and they are yellow-bellies.

Sad to say, we are at the coast for a week ... heading into rain by Tuesday or so it looks.

Keep Dry!