|The Olympic Marmot
June 27, 2009
Elston and Jackie Hill
We had planned to hike to Boulder Lake with the Klahhanes, but after thinking about the dreary first two miles to the hot
springs, we chose to make an early start to Hurricane Hill to look for wild life and wild flowers.
We were not disappointed. As we arrived at the first meadow, there were marmots frolicking in the meadow.
Soon we encountered this marmot who
then ran in front of us to greet a fellow
marmot by rushing up and giving the
marmot a hug with his front paws.
In our first several years in the Olympics, we
rarely saw marmots, so we were astounded to
see so many today. Other people we talked
with this morning shared our view that there
has been a resurgence in this endangered
species which is unique to the Peninsula.
The Olympic Marmot is a rodent
in the squirrel family. They are
found in alpine and subalpine
meadows and talus slopes of the
Olympic Peninsula and are close
relatives of the Hoary Marmot.
A typical family consists of a
male, two to three females and
their young. New born marmots
stay with their family for at least
two years so a burrow will usually
be home to a newly born litter
and a year old litter. Female
marmots have a litter of about
four marmots on alternate years.
Olympic Marmots hibernate from
September through May. After they
come out of hibernation, their diet
consists largely of roots until new
vegetation appears in the spring, after
which they feed on grasses, herbs,
mosses and flowers as well as the
occasional insect. Dry grasses are
also brought into the burrows for
bedding or food. Colonies are
frequently found on southern-facing
slopes as the earlier snowmelt leads
to more food for the colony.
During the active months of June, July
and August, the marmots forage in the
morning and afternoon with a break
around midday. Before each feeding
period they visit the other burrows in
the colony. .
Common predators of the
Olympic Marmot are the coyote
and puma although the marmots
have been observed making
alarm calls for a number of large
birds of prey as well as bears
Finally, some glacier lilies along the trail today.