What is an Alpine Marmot? 'Expert Diggers'
Have you ever heard of the Marmot? It is a ground-dwelling squirrel that is both incredibly cute and highly skilled. You will find this creature in higher altitudes, particularly in the Alps, up to 3,200 metres above sea level. In our blog series ‘Alpine Animals’, we will be looking at some of the incredible creatures that live among the majestic mountain range of the Apennines. Our Miramonti Boutique Hotel is beside the Italian Alps, and it never fails to surprise us with the amount of flora and fauna that thrive in the harsh climate, including some of our favourite ingredients like the Porcini Mushroom. Throughout the past few years, the populations of these animals have been decreasing. So through this series, we hope to put a spotlight on some of the unique animals that call the Alps their home.
The Alpine marmot is truly adaptable. First originating from the Pleistocene era, the animal altered itself to suit the climate of the ice age. A notable skill they possess is their remarkable digging ability. They can penetrate through hard ground, that even a pickaxe would have difficulty in digging. Marmots love to build extensive burrows, with systems and multiple entrances. If you are Hiking in the Alps and are trying to spot an Alpine marmot around this time, we doubt that you will find any! As marmots hibernate around the start of September, where they will burrow underground and survive on the fat reserves they gathered throughout the summer, at about 23 feet deep in the ground! But after winter, when the snow has receded, the marmots prepare for mating season. Marmots live on a diet of vegetation, which includes moss, grass, berries and flowers, and on the rare occasion - insects.
One of the ways marmots try and survive in the wild is their unique social system. While everyone is busy and enjoying their time in the fields. One ‘guard’ marmot will look out for predators. If they identify one, they will alarm the others by giving a high-pitched whistle. This is why if you see a marmot, you will likely spot a marmot standing tall.
According to the IUCN Red List, Alpine marmots have the least concern in terms of population threat. This is great news as their population has no signs of declining as it is remaining stable. Despite this, there are still some threats to their numbers. In certain countries, they are killed as trophies, and their ‘fat’ is believed to relieve arthritis.
For more articles about the Italian Alps and Northern Italy, read the blog: