Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vancouver marmot

This house-cat sized marmot was first described in 1910. It is one of the rarest mammals of North America with fewer than 100 individuals remaining now. It has quite chunky, blunt, plump face with small ears. The gleaming fur is usually a rich chestnut-brown color with a creamy white patch around the nose and mouth that extends to the neck. The tail is bushy and there is often a dappled streak of creamy-white fur along the chest and belly. Pups can be identified by their small size and very dark brown to black fur. The Vancouver Island marmot is a distinct species of marmot found only in the mountains of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
Special feature:
Marmots are also known as "whistle pigs" because they whistle when they think they're in danger.
· Marmots collect dry moss and grasses to pile up inside their burrows and use as bedding.
· Rocks are important to Vancouver Island marmots - they lie on them to cool down (if the rocks are cold) or warm up (if the rocks have been baking in the sun). Rocks also provide an elevated spot from which to watch for predators.

Vancouver Island marmots live at an altitude of between 900 and 1400 meters. Many have established their colonies (social groups of one or a few families) in areas which are steep and relatively inaccessible to humans. The colonies are so remote from human habitation that most people who live on Vancouver Island have never seen a marmot. The marmots dig their homes (underground burrows) in the deep soil, perch on the surrounding rocks to watch out for predators, and eat the grasses, herbs and flowering plants growing there.

The Vancouver Island marmot lives in one or more families. Families typically contain one adult male, up to two adult females, sub-adults, juveniles and the offspring produced that year. The colony lives in a complex series of underground burrows, and communicates by direct contact and whistling vocalizations including a high-pitched alarm whistle to warn others of impending danger.
The main predators of the Vancouver Island marmot are wolves, cougars, and golden eagles.
The diet consists of over 50 species of grass and flowering plants. Marmots eat grasses, herbs, and flowering plants - they're vegans!

Adult Vancouver Island marmots mate and produce litters of 3 or 4 pups. And some “teenage” marmots (aged 2 or 3) leave their colony to find a mate. They travel down their home mountains and cross over to a neighboring peak. If they can’t find a potential mate on one mountaintop, they’ll explore other mountains until they find one. Many Vancouver Island marmots have covered scores of kilometers conducting these searches. During hibernation, the marmot's heart beats 3 or 4 times per minute. During the active season heart rates range from 110 to over 200 beats per minute..

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