Marmots are large squirrels in the genus Marmota, with 15 species.

Temporal range: Late Miocene–Recent
Yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
Tribe: Marmotini
Genus: Marmota
Blumenbach, 1779

15, see text


Some species live in mountainous areas, such as the Alps, northern Apennines, Carpathians, Tatras, and Pyrenees in Europe; northwestern Asia; the Rocky Mountains, Black Hills, the Cascade and Pacific Ranges, and the Sierra Nevada in North America; and the Deosai Plateau in Pakistan and Ladakh in India. Other species prefer rough grassland and can be found widely across North America and the Eurasian Steppe. The similarly sized but more social prairie dog is not classified in the genus Marmota, but in the related genus Cynomys.

Marmots typically live in burrows (often within rockpiles, particularly in the case of the yellow-bellied marmot), and hibernate there through the winter. Most marmots are highly social and use loud whistles to communicate with one another, especially when alarmed.

Marmots mainly eat greens and many types of grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, roots, and flowers.

Subgenera and species

The following is a list of all Marmota species recognized by Thorington and Hoffman[1] plus the recently defined M. kastschenkoi.[2] They divide marmots into two subgenera.

Additionally, four extinct species of marmots are recognized from the fossil record:

  • Marmota arizonae, Arizona, U.S.[3]
  • Marmota minor, Nevada, U.S.[4]
  • Marmota robusta, China
  • Marmota vetus, Nebraska, U.S.[5]

History and etymology

Marmota primigenia
Marmota primigenia fossil

Marmots have been known since antiquity. Research by the French ethnologist Michel Peissel claimed the story of the "Gold-digging ant" reported by the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the fifth century BCE, was founded on the golden Himalayan marmot of the Deosai Plateau and the habit of local tribes such as the Brokpa to collect the gold dust excavated from their burrows.[6]

The etymology of the term "marmot" is uncertain. It may have arisen from the Gallo-Romance prefix marm-, meaning to mumble or murmur (an example of onomatopoeia). Another possible origin is post-classical Latin, mus montanus, meaning "mountain mouse".[7]

Beginning in 2010, Alaska celebrates February 2 as "Marmot Day", a holiday intended to observe the prevalence of marmots in that state and take the place of Groundhog Day.[8]

Examples of species


Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus)

Groundhog, eating

Groundhog (Marmota monax), Ottawa, Ontario

Marmota camtschatica img 4973

Black-capped marmot (Marmota camtschatica)

Golden marmot

Long-tailed marmot (Marmota caudata), Pakistan

Himalayan Marmot at Tshophu Lake Bhutan 091007 b

Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayanus), Bhutan

Marmota baibacina

Gray marmot (Marmota baibacina), Altai Mountains, Kazakhstan

Marmota sibirica - (Russia, Mongolia) - Rochers-de-Naye, Switzerland, 2009

Tarbagan marmot (Marmota sibirica), Russia and Mongolia


Drawing of bobak marmot (Marmota bobak)


  1. ^ Thorington, R. W., Jr., and R. S. Hoffman. (2005). "Family Sciuridae". Mammal Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, pp. 754–818. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder, eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.
  2. ^ a b Brandler, OV (2003). "On species status of the forest-steppe marmot Marmota kastschenkoi (Rodentia, Marmotinae)". Zoologičeskij žurnal (in Russian). 82 (12): 1498–1505.
  3. ^ GBIF Secretariat. "Marmota arizonae GBIF Backbone Taxonomy". Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  4. ^ Paleobiology Database. "Marmota minor". Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  5. ^ GBIF Secretariat. "Marmota vetus GBIF Backbone Taxonomy". Retrieved 30 April 2017.
  6. ^ Peissel, Michel. "The Ants' Gold: The Discovery of the Greek El Dorado in the Himalayas". Collins, 1984. ISBN 978-0-00-272514-9.
  7. ^ "Marmot". Oxford English Dictionary (3rd ed.). Oxford University Press. September 2005. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
  8. ^ The Associated Press. "Alaska to Celebrate its First Marmot Day" Archived 2010-02-05 at the Wayback Machine, Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Feb. 1, 2010. Accessed Feb. 1, 2010.

External links

Alpine marmot

The alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) is a large ground-dwelling squirrel, from the family of marmots. It is an animal of Pleistocene cold steppe, exquisitely adapted to this ice-age climate. As such, alpine marmots are excellent diggers, able to penetrate soil that even a pickaxe would have difficulty with, and spend up to nine months per year in hibernation.Since the disappearance of the Pleistocene cold steppe, the alpine marmot persists in the high altitude alpine meadow. It is found in high numbers in mountainous areas of central and southern Europe at heights between 800 and 3,200 metres in the Alps, Carpathians, Tatras, the Pyrenees and Northern Apennines in Italy. They were further reintroduced with success in the Pyrenees in 1948, where the alpine marmot had disappeared at end of the Pleistocene epoch.

During the colonisation of Alpine habitat, the alpine marmot has lost most of its genetic diversity through a bottleneck effect. It could not rebuild its genetic diversity ever since, as its lifestyle adapted to the Ice Age climate slowed its rate of genomic evolution. The alpine marmot is indeed one of the least genetically diverse wild-living animals .

Arctic ground squirrel

The Arctic ground squirrel (Urocitellus parryii) (Inuktitut: ᓯᒃᓯᒃ, siksik) is a species of ground squirrel native to the Arctic. People in Alaska, particularly around the Aleutians, refer to them as "parka" squirrels, most likely because their pelt is good for the ruff on parkas and for clothing.

Black-capped marmot

The black-capped marmot (Marmota camtschatica) is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is endemic to Russia.

Bobak marmot

The bobak marmot (Marmota bobak), also known as the steppe marmot, is a species of marmot that inhabits the steppes of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is a social animal and inhabits steppe grassland, including cultivated field borders. It hibernates for more than half the year. Litter sizes average about five offspring and it takes three years for the young marmots to reach sexual maturity. Male offspring leave the home colony after their second winter, and about 60% of mature females give birth in any one year. The fur is used to make hats and coats and a Moscow fur-farm is experimenting with breeding bobak marmots for their pelts.

California ground squirrel

The California ground squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi), also known as the Beechey ground squirrel, is a common and easily observed ground squirrel of the western United States and the Baja California Peninsula; it is common in Oregon and California and its range has relatively recently extended into Washington and northwestern Nevada. Formerly placed in Spermophilus, as Spermophilus beecheyi, it was reclassified in Otospermophilus in 2009 as it became clear that Spermophilus as previously defined was not a natural (monophyletic) group. A full species account was published for this species in 2016.

Gray marmot

The gray marmot, grey marmot, or Altai marmot (Marmota baibacina) is a species of rodent in the squirrel family Sciuridae. It is one of the larger marmots in the genus Marmota. It occurs in mountainous grasslands and shrub lands of central Asia, and is one of the 9 Palearctic (Eurasia) species. It is found in Xinjiang Province in China, southeastern Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, and in the Altai and Tien Shan Mountains in southeastern Siberia in Russia. In the Mongolian Altai, its range overlaps with that of the Tarbagan marmot. Gray marmots form social groups, live in burrows, and hibernate.

Ground squirrel

The ground squirrels are members of the squirrel family of rodents (Sciuridae) which generally live on or in the ground, rather than trees. The term is most often used for the medium-sized ground squirrels, as the larger ones are more commonly known as marmots (genus Marmota) or prairie dogs, while the smaller and less bushy-tailed ground squirrels tend to be known as chipmunks. Together, they make up the "marmot tribe" of squirrels, Marmotini, and the large and mainly ground squirrel subfamily Xerinae, and containing six living genera. Well-known members of this largely Holarctic group are the marmots (Marmota), including the American groundhog, the chipmunks, the susliks (Spermophilus), and the prairie dogs (Cynomys). They are highly variable in size and habitus, but most are remarkably able to rise up on their hind legs and stand fully erect comfortably for prolonged periods. They also tend to be far more gregarious than other squirrels, and many live in colonies with complex social structures. Most Marmotini are rather short-tailed and large squirrels, and the alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) is the largest living member of the Sciuridae, at 53–73 cm in length and weighing 5–8 kg.

The chipmunks of the genus Tamias frequently spend time in trees. Also closer to typical squirrels in other aspects, they are occasionally considered a tribe of their own (Tamiini).The ground squirrel is especially renowned for its tendency to rise up on its hind legs. It does this whenever it senses nearby danger, or when it must see over tall grasses. The squirrel then curls its paws flat against its chest and sends a screeching call to warn other family members about the presence of predators.


The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. It was first scientifically described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. The groundhog is also referred to as a chuck, wood-shock, groundpig, whistlepig, whistler, thickwood badger, Canada marmot, monax, moonack, weenusk, red monk and, among French Canadians in eastern Canada, siffleux. The name "thickwood badger" was given in the Northwest to distinguish the animal from the prairie badger. Monax (Móonack) is an Algonquian name of the woodchuck, which meant "digger" (cf. Lenape monachgeu). Young groundhogs may be called chucklings. Other marmots, such as the yellow-bellied and hoary marmots, live in rocky and mountainous areas, but the groundhog is a lowland creature. It is found through much of the eastern United States across Canada and into Alaska.

Himalayan marmot

The Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayana) is a marmot species that inhabits alpine grasslands throughout the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau. It is IUCN Red Listed as Least Concern because of its wide range and possibly large population.

Hoary marmot

The hoary marmot (Marmota caligata) is a species of marmot that inhabits the mountains of northwest North America. Hoary marmots live near the tree line on slopes with grasses and forbs to eat and rocky areas for cover.

It is the largest North American ground squirrel and is often nicknamed "the whistler" for its high-pitched warning issued to alert other members of the colony to possible danger. The animals are sometimes called "whistle pigs". Whistler, British Columbia, originally London Mountain because of its heavy fogs and rain, was renamed after these animals to help make it more marketable as a resort. The closest relatives of the species are the yellow-bellied, Olympic, and Vancouver Island marmots, although the exact relationships are unclear.

Least chipmunk

The least chipmunk (Neotamias minimus) is the smallest species of chipmunk and the most widespread in North America.

Marmot Basin

Marmot Basin is an alpine ski area located in Alberta's Jasper National Park.

Marmot Basin has 91 named runs on four mountain faces with 3,000 vertical feet of drop. The area has a lift capacity of close to 12,000 skiers per hour on seven lifts. The season runs from mid-November to early May.

Marmot Basin's facilities and services include 7 lifts, including the Canadian Rockies Express high speed quad chair - the longest in the Canadian Rockies, 3 on-mountain day lodges, a full-service Rental Shop, Snow Sports School, eateries, a nursery and retail shop.

Marmot Basin is located twenty minutes south of the town of Jasper, which provides for the needs of over two million visitors a year. Jasper National Park offers Rocky Mountain vistas, hiking and trail riding tours, whitewater rafting, and other year-round attractions.

Menzbier's marmot

The Menzbier's marmot (Marmota menzbieri) is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is found in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Its natural habitat is temperate grassland. It is threatened by habitat loss. Its name commemorates Russian zoologist Mikhail Aleksandrovich Menzbier.

Olympic marmot

The Olympic marmot (Marmota olympus) is a rodent in the squirrel family, Sciuridae; it occurs only in the U.S. state of Washington, on the middle elevations of the Olympic Peninsula. The closest relatives of this species are the hoary marmot and the Vancouver Island marmot. In 2009, it was declared the official endemic mammal of Washington.

This marmot is about the size of a domestic cat, typically weighing about 8 kg (18 lb) in summer. The species shows the greatest sexual dimorphism found in marmots, with adult males weighing on average 23% more than females. It can be identified by a wide head, small eyes and ears, stubby legs, and a long, bushy tail. Its sharp, rounded claws aid in digging burrows. The coat color changes with the season and with age, but an adult marmot's coat is brown all over with small whiter areas for most of the year.

The species has a diet consisting mainly of a variety of meadow flora, including dry grasses, which it also uses as bedding in burrows. It is preyed on by various terrestrial mammals and avian raptors, but its main predator today is the coyote. The Olympic marmot is rated a species of the least concern on the IUCN Red List. It is protected by law in the Olympic National Park, which contains most of its habitat.

The burrows of this marmot are made in colonies, which are found in various mountain locations and differ in size. A colony may contain as few as one marmot family or multiple families with up to 40 marmots. Olympic marmots are very sociable animals which often engage in play fighting and vocalize four different whistles to communicate. During hibernation beginning in September, they are in a deep sleep and do not eat, causing them to lose half their body mass. Adults emerge in May and their young in June. Female marmots reach sexual maturity at three years of age, and produce litters of 1–6 every other mating season.

Prairie dog

Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are herbivorous burrowing rodents native to the grasslands of North America. The five species are: black-tailed, white-tailed, Gunnison's, Utah, and Mexican prairie dogs. They are a type of ground squirrel, found in the United States, Canadian Prairies and Mexico. In Mexico, prairie dogs are found primarily in the northern states, which lie at the southern end of the Great Plains: northeastern Sonora, north and northeastern Chihuahua, northern Coahuila, northern Nuevo León, and northern Tamaulipas. In the United States, they range primarily to the west of the Mississippi River, though they have also been introduced in a few eastern locales. Despite the name, they are not actually canines.


Squirrels are members of the family Sciuridae, a family that includes small or medium-size rodents. The squirrel family includes tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, marmots (including woodchucks), flying squirrels, and prairie dogs amongst other rodents. Squirrels are indigenous to the Americas, Eurasia, and Africa, and were introduced by humans to Australia. The earliest known fossilized squirrels date from the Eocene period and are most closely related to the mountain beaver and to the dormouse among other living rodent families.

Tarbagan marmot

The Tarbagan marmot (Marmota sibirica) is a species of rodent in the family Sciuridae. It is found in China (Inner Mongolia and Heilongjiang), northern and western Mongolia, and Russia (southwest Siberia, Tuva, Transbaikalia). In the Mongolian Altai the range overlaps with that of the Gray marmot. The species was classified as endangered by the IUCN in 2008.Two subspecies are recognized:

M. s. sibirica

M. s. caliginosus

Vancouver Island marmot

The Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) naturally occurs only in the high mountains of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia. This particular marmot species is large compared to some other marmots, and most other rodents. Marmots as a group are the largest members of the squirrel family, with weights of adults varying from 3 to 7 kg depending on age and time of year.Although endemic to Vancouver Island, Marmota vancouverensis now also resides successfully at several captive breeding centres across Canada as well as several sites on Vancouver Island at which local extinction was observed during the 1990s. This is the result of an ongoing recovery program designed to prevent extinction and restore self-sustaining wild populations of this unique Canadian species. Due to the efforts of the recovery program, the marmot count in the wild increased from less than 30 wild marmots in 2003, to an estimated 250-300 in 2015.

Yellow-bellied marmot

The yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris), also known as the rock chuck, is a large, stout-bodied ground squirrel in the marmot genus. It is one of fourteen species of marmots, and is native to mountainous regions of southwestern Canada and western United States, including the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada, and Mount Rainier in the state of Washington, typically living above 6,500 feet (2,000 m). The fur is mainly brown, with a dark bushy tail, yellow chest and white patch between the eyes, and they weigh up to approximately 5 kg (11 lb). They live in burrows in colonies of up to twenty individuals with a single dominant male. They are diurnal and feed on plant material, insects, and bird eggs. They hibernate for approximately eight months starting in September and lasting through the winter.

Living species of tribe Marmotini (ground squirrels)
(antelope squirrels)
(golden-mantled ground squirrels)
(prairie dogs)
(little ground squirrels)
(western chipmunks)
(rock squirrels)
(Asian rock squirrels)
Spermophilus sensu stricto
(Old World ground squirrels)
(Holarctic ground squirrels)
(pygmy ground squirrels)


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