This week’s featured animal is the yellow-bellied marmot.
A cousin of the well-known groundhog, the yellow-bellied marmot can frequently be found in the high tundra of Rocky Mountain National Park. Look for them sunning themselves on the rocks along Trail Ridge Road. Their numbers seem to be rising in Estes Park as well where they live in the rock outcroppings found throughout town.
1. The yellow-bellied marmot is nicknamed the “whistle pig” for the high-pitched chirp they make to warn other group members about potential threats.
2. Yellow-bellied marmots spend more than half of the year in hibernation, which can last from September to May depending on their home elevation. During hibernation, colony members huddle closely together in the burrow to conserve energy. Marmots implement this tactic to survive the extreme winters of their high-elevation habitats.
3. Yellow-bellied marmots are categorized as a large rodent, related to ground squirrels and prairie dogs.
4. Although yellow-bellied marmots do not see well, they have an excellent sense of hearing and smell.
5. A colony animal, male marmots have harems of two or three females and their offspring, with rearing duties being shared by all adults in the harem.
Dawn Wilson is a professional and award-winning nature photographer who lives in Estes Park year-round. You can see more of her work, join one of her Rocky tours and purchase prints at DawnWilsonPhotography.com.