~ Basic information. ~

Marmots are charming animals that stand on their hind legs. In the Alps region, such as Switzerland, marmot stuffed animals and other souvenirs are very popular. But marmots can also make amazing screams that you wouldn’t expect from their cute appearance.
Marmots have many other attractions and surprising behaviors. Let’s find out more about marmots.


Rodentia, Sciuridae, Xerinae, Marmotini, Marmot genus. 


The body length is about 30 cm for the smallest species and up to 75 cm for the largest species. The tail is 10 to 25 cm long and the weight is about 2 to 7.5 kg.
The smallest species is not clear, but the largest species is the Olympic marmot (Petromarmota).

Features of marmots.

The marmot genus is a large ground squirrel with a short tail, a round and chubby body and large incisors. They rarely climb trees and usually dig tunnels in the ground and make nests in mountainous or grassland areas. Marmots can dig holes well because they have short and strong front legs and large curved claws.


Marmots are active from mid-April to late September, but hibernate from early October to mid-April. As the hibernation period approaches, marmots eat a lot to store nutrients in their bodies and accumulate fat. At this time, marmots have a lot of fat on their bodies and their weight increases significantly.

When they wake up from hibernation, it is the mating season for marmots. They mate in April or May and the female gives birth to two to five babies. The gestation period is about 30 to 32 days. Marmot babies start to come out of the nest often after about six weeks and become adults and sexually mature in two years.


Where marmots live.

Marmots have different habitats depending on the species, but most of them live widely in mountainous or highland areas of the Eurasian continent. The Siberian marmot lives from China to Mongolia and the Alpine marmot lives in high mountain areas of Europe. In tourist areas such as Switzerland, Austria and southern Germany, marmot souvenirs such as stuffed animals are also lined up and are popular with tourists.

In North America, such as the United States and Canada, there is a type of marmot called the woodchuck (also known as the groundhog), which lives in plains or near forests.


Type of Marmot.


Marmots living on the Eurasian continent.
☆Marmots living in the mountainous regions and plateaus of the Eurasian continent.

・Black-capped marmot.
 Eastern Siberia. They live in the tundra and alpine areas of the Arctic Circle from near sea level to 2,000 m altitude in the Barguzin Nature Reserve, Russia.

出典:Сурок черношапочный (камчатский).jpg

・Tarbagan marmot.
 They live in the Altai Mountains of China, Siberia and Mongolia.

出典: sibirica – (Russia, Mongolia) – Rochers-de-Naye, Switzerland, 2009.JPG

・Gray marmot.
 They live in Siberia and other places.


・Himalayan marmot.
 They live in the Himalayan Mountains.


・Long-tailed marmot.
 They live in grasslands and rocky areas at altitudes of 3,200 to 5,000 m in the Pamir Plateau of Central Asia.

出典: Marmot – Shreeram M V – Suru Valley.jpg

・Menzbier’s marmot.
They live in Central Asia, such as the Tien Shan Mountains.

・Alpine marmot.
 They live in the European Alps, the Pyrenees, the northern Apennines, the Carpathians, the Tatra Mountains and other places.


☆Marmots living in the forests and steppes of the Eurasian continent.

・Forest-steppe marmot.
 They live in forests and grasslands in southern Russia.

・Bobak marmot.
They live in grasslands in eastern Europe and Central Asia.

Marmots living in the Americas.

☆Marmots that inhabit the mountains of the Americas.

・Alaska marmot.
 They live in the Brooks Range, Alaska.

☆Marmots living on the plains of the Americas.



They live in plains or near forests in Canada and the northeastern and central United States, from Alaska in the north to Georgia in the southeast.


・Hoary marmot.


They live mainly in mountainous areas at an altitude of 2,500 meters in Alaska and northwestern Canada.

・Olympic marmot.
They live in the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State, USA. They are only found in this region because the peninsula is isolated by high mountains.


・Vancouver marmot.
They live only on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. They are listed as endangered species.


・Yellow-bellied marmot.
 They live in grasslands and meadows in the western United States, including the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, and southwestern Canada.


Extinct marmots.

・Marmota robusta. (China)

・Marmota arizonae. (Arizona, USA)

・Marmota minor (Nevada, USA)

・Marmota vestus (Nebraska, USA)



Marmot’s Q&A.

Q, Where does the marmot get its name?

The word marmot is said to derive from the French word marmotte, which in turn comes from the Romansh word murmont, used in southeastern Switzerland, and ultimately from the Latin word murem montis, the accusative case of mus montis, meaning ‘mountain mouse’.

Another theory is that the name marmot is derived from the French verb marmotter, meaning ‘to mumble or mutter’.


Q, What’s going on with the burrows where marmots live?

Marmots have various types, but here we will introduce the burrows of marmots that live in the Alps of Europe. Marmots use their long and sturdy claws skillfully to dig tunnels and make burrows to hide from enemies, as well as rooms for living (bedrooms) and hibernating. Marmots also have toilets at the end of their burrow tunnels. It is surprising that they have toilets in their burrows.

The burrows are completed and used by one family. The burrows may also be used by the next generation of the family. Some burrows are expanded by each generation and gradually become larger and more complex.


Q, I saw a picture of a marmot standing on two legs, what is it doing?

When you are hiking in the Alps of Europe, such as Switzerland, you may see marmots standing on their hind legs. Their adorable appearance is very popular with travelers, but in fact they are doing a vigilant lookout at this time. When the lookout marmot detects a predator (an animal that eats them) or other danger, it makes a loud whistle-like alarm call (scream) to alert its companions.

Surprisingly, the alarm call has several meanings, and a long alarm call means a danger from the air such as an eagle, while a short alarm call means a danger from the ground such as a fox. When the colony marmots hear the sound, they run to the burrows that are used as shelters while paying attention to the enemy.


Q, What do marmots eat?

Marmots mainly eat grass, but they also eat fruits, mosses, roots, flowers, leaves and insects. When they eat, they hold the food with both hands of their front legs and eat it, and their cute appearance makes you smile involuntarily.

Marmots’ meal times are mainly in the morning and late afternoon. They are not well adapted to heat, so they may not be able to eat on hot days. As summer approaches its end, they eat a lot of food and store a layer of fat in their bodies so that they can survive the long hibernation period. Their weight increases by about twice as much as they approach hibernation.


Q, Do marmot friends play and fight?


Marmots are very social animals, and they alert their companions of danger with a whistle-like voice, and play with their companions. They also play-fight by standing on their hind legs and pushing each other.

Q, Where do marmots hibernate?

Marmots hibernate in their nests. Around the end of summer, marmots start preparing their beds for hibernation. They gather dry grass and old stems in their burrows to make their beds. When they enter hibernation, they seal the entrance of their burrows with a mixture of soil and their own feces.

During hibernation, they cuddle and curl up and start hibernating. During hibernation, marmots shrink their digestive system and regulate their metabolic function. Alpine marmots can lower their heart rate to 5 beats per minute and their breathing to 1-3 times per minute, which allows them to slowly consume the fat stored in their bodies. They lower their body temperature to almost the same as the ambient temperature, but when the temperature gets close to 0°C, their heart rate and breathing increase.

Hibernation lasts for about 6 to 9 months depending on the species, and when spring comes and the temperature rises, they wake up and start their activities. However, some marmots die of starvation during hibernation because they run out of the layer of fat in their bodies.


Q, How to raise marmots? How long does it take to become an adult?

When marmots become pregnant, they carry grass and other materials to their burrows to prepare for giving birth. The gestation period is 33-34 days. They give birth to 1-7 babies at a time. A few days after birth, fur grows on them. The babies are nursed with breast milk, but they are weaned after more than 40 days.

During the weaning period, the marmot mom leaves the children in the burrow and goes out to look for food. When the weaning period is over, the children also come out of the burrow and start looking for food by themselves. The children’s fur becomes the same color as the adults by the end of summer, and they grow to the same size as the adults after two years.


Q, How long does a marmot last?

Depending on the type of marmot, there is a variation in their lifespan. Some marmots live for 2 to 10 years in the wild, and some live for 15-18 years in captivity such as zoos.


Q, Guinea pigs and marmots have similar names but are the same friends?

They are called ‘Guinea pig’ in English, but actually they are called ‘morumotto’ in Japanese. ‘Marmot’ is also the same name in Japanese. Are these animals with similar names in Japanese related?

No, marmots are rodents of the squirrel family, and morumottos are rodents of the cavy family. Actually, the name ‘morumotto’ was mistakenly conveyed when it was brought from the Netherlands to Japan, and it became the name as it is.

‘Morumotto’ is originally an animal called ‘cania’ in the Netherlands, but the merchant who brought ‘morumotto’ to Japan made a mistake and introduced it as an animal named ‘marmot’. This marmot became corrupted and was called ‘morumotto’.

Q, Can marmots be pets?

When keeping animals, you may need to follow the laws set by each country. This time, we will introduce whether you can keep marmots at home in Japan.

Some dealers sell marmots as rare animals, but marmots are not suitable for pets to keep at home.
This is because marmots are wild animals that live in colonies on high mountains and wide grasslands.

Also, they are not suited to Japan’s hot climate. In an environment where they cannot dig holes in wide highlands or grasslands, no matter how much you love them, it would not be a happy thing for marmots to live as pets. Except for places that are close to the habitat where marmots can live while digging holes with their family, and zoos, we do not recommend keeping marmots.


Q, Is it true that marmots are sometimes used in edible meat?

Yes, marmots have been used as food in the regions where they have lived for a long time. In Switzerland, marmots are game animals, and every year in September and October, hunters catch thousands of them for population control, and some restaurants serve dishes made with marmot meat.

In villages such as Zermatt, the overpopulation of marmots has become a problem recently, and marmots have come down to the villages and dug holes in the farmland, causing various damages, so population control is necessary. Marmots are also popular with tourists in Switzerland, but sometimes they become pests and they are struggling to deal with them.

Also, rodents including marmots can be vectors of infectious diseases such as plague, and in 2020, a Mongolian boy who ate a marmot died of bubonic plague. Attention from such a perspective is also necessary.


Q, Where can I meet marmots?

Unfortunately, there are no wild marmots living in Japan.
But there is a zoo where you can meet marmots!

The zoo where you can meet marmots in Japan is
‘Izu Shaboten Animal Park (’
Three bobak marmots named ‘Columbia’, ‘Montbell’ and ‘Patagonia’ are on display.

If you want to see wild marmots, Switzerland is the best place. You can see them on hiking trails in places like Zermatt, but if you want to see them up close, go to ‘Spielboden’ on the way up to the Rengfurü lookout from Saas-Fee in the Valais region, where there are many marmots that are used to humans. The restaurant at Spielboden also sells marmot food, so you can feed them.








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