From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The marmots are a genus, Marmota, of squirrels. There are 14 species in this genus.
Marmots are generally large ground squirrels. Those most often referred to as marmots tend to live in mountainous areas such as the Alps, northern Apennines, Eurasian steppes, Carpathians, Tatras, and Pyrenees in Europe and northwestern Asia; the Rocky Mountains, Black Hills, Cascades, and Sierra Nevada in North America; and the Deosai Plateau in Pakistan and Ladakh in India. The groundhog, however, is also properly called a marmot, while 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.
FONTE IMMAGINE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marmot-edit1.jpg
The following is a list of all Marmota species recognized by Thorington and Hoffman (2005). They divide marmots into two subgenera.
Genus Marmota – marmots
Alpine Marmot, Marmota marmota found only in Europe in the Alps, northern Apennines in Italy, Carpathians, Tatras, and reintroduced in the Pyrenees
Gray Marmot or Altai Marmot, Marmota baibacina found in Siberia
Bobak Marmot, Marmota bobak found from central Europe to central Asia
Alaska Marmot, Brower's Marmot, or Brooks Range Marmot, Marmota broweri found in Alaska
Black-capped Marmot, Marmota camtschatica found in eastern Siberia
Long-tailed Marmot, Golden Marmot, or Red Marmot, Marmota caudata found in central Asia
Himalayan Marmot or Tibetan Snow Pig, Marmota himalayana found in the Himalayas
Menzbier's Marmot, Marmota menzbieri, found in central Asia
Groundhog, Woodchuck or Whistlepig, Marmota monax found in most of North America
Tarbagan Marmot, Mongolian Marmot, or Tarvaga, Marmota sibirica found in Siberia
Hoary Marmot, Marmota caligata found in northwestern North America[clarification needed]
Yellow-bellied Marmot, Marmota flaviventris found in southwestern Canada and western United States
Olympic Marmot, Marmota olympus endemic to the Olympic Peninsula, Washington, USA
Vancouver Island Marmot, Marmota vancouverensis endemic to Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada
Additionally, four extinct species of marmot are recognized from the fossil record:
Marmota arizonae, Arizona, U.S.
Marmota minor, Nevada, U.S.
Marmota robusta, China
Marmota vestus, Nebraska, U.S.
History and etymology
Marmots have been known since antiquity. Research by the French ethnologist Michel Peissel makes a claim that the story of "gold-digging ants" reported by the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus, who lived in the 5th century BC, was founded on the golden Himalayan Marmot of the Deosai plateau and the habit of local tribes such as the Minaro to collect the gold dust excavated from their burrows.
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".
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.FONTE:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Alpine Marmot (Marmota marmota) is a species of marmot found in mountainous areas of central and southern Europe. Alpine marmots live at heights between 800 and 3,200 metres in the Alps, Carpathians, Tatras, the Pyrenees and Northern Apennines in Italy. They were reintroduced with success in the Pyrenees in 1948, where the alpine marmot had disappeared at end of the Pleistocene epoch. They 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.
An adult alpine marmot may weigh between 4 and 8 kg, stand at 18 cm at the shoulder, and reach between 42–54 cm in length (not including the tail, which measures between 13–16 cm on average). This makes the alpine marmot the largest squirrel species. Its coat is a mixture of blonde, reddish and dark gray fur. While most of the alpine marmot's fingers have claws, its thumbs have nails.
Range and ecology
As its name suggests, the alpine marmot ranges throughout the European Alps, ranging through Spain, France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany and Austria. They have also been introduced elsewhere with sub-populations in the Pyrenees, Massif Central, Jura, Vosges, Black Forest, Apennine Mountains, High Tatras, and Romanian Carpathians. Marmots are abundant in their core population; in the Romanian Carpathians, for example, the population is estimated at 1,500 individuals. Alpine marmots prefer alpine meadows and high-altitude pastures and colonies, where they live in deep burrow systems situated in alluvial soil or rocky areas.
When creating a burrow, they use both their forepaws and hind feet to assist in the work—the forepaws scrape away the soil, which is then pushed out of the way by the hind feet. If there are any stones in the way, the alpine marmot will remove them with its teeth provided that the stones aren't too large. "Living areas" are created at the end of a burrow, and are often lined with dried hay, grass and plant stems. Any other burrow tunnels that go nowhere are used as toilet areas. Once burrows have been completed, they only host one family, but are often enlarged by the next generation, sometimes creating very complex burrows over time. Each alpine marmot will live in a group that consists of several burrows, and which has a dominant breeding pair. Alpine marmots are very defensive against intruders, and will warn them off using intimidating behavior, such as beating of the tail and chattering of the teeth, and by marking their territory with their scent. One can often see an alpine marmot "standing" while they keep a look-out for potential predators or other dangers. If one is spotted, they will emit a loud whistle or chirp—one whistle is given for possible airborne predators, more for ground predators.
FONTE IMMAGINE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marmotte_des_Pyr%C3%A9n%C3%A9es.jpg
The mating season for alpine marmots occurs in the spring, right after their hibernation period comes to a close, which gives their offspring the highest possible chance of surviving the coming winter. Alpine marmots are able to breed once they reach an age of two years. Dominant females tend to suppress reproduction of subordinates by being antagonistic towards them while they are pregnant while causes stress and kills the young. Once the female is pregnant, she will take bedding materials (such as grass) into the burrow for when she gives birth after a gestation period of 33–34 days. Each litter consists of between one to seven babies, though this number is usually three. The babies are born blind and will grow dark fur within several days. The weaning period takes a further forty days, during which time the mother will leave the young in the burrow while she searches for food. After this period, the offspring will come out of the burrow and search for solid food themselves. Their fur becomes the same colour as other alpine marmots by the end of the summer, and after two years they will have reached their full size. If kept in captivity, alpine marmots can live up to 15–18 years.
As the summer begins to end, alpine marmots will gather old stems in their burrows in order to serve as bedding for their impending hibernation, which can start as early as October. They seal the burrow with a combination of earth and their own faeces. Once winter arrives, alpine marmots will huddle next to each other and begin hibernation, a process which lowers their heart rate to five beats per minute and breathing to 1–3 breaths per minute, which uses up their stored fat supplies as slowly as possible. Body temperature will drop to almost the same as the air around them, although heart rate and breathing will speed up if the environment approaches freezing point. Some alpine marmots will starve to death due to their layer of fat running out; this is most likely to happen in younger alpine marmots.
Interaction with humans
Although not currently in any danger of extinction, alpine marmots used to be widely hunted due to the belief that their fat would ease rheumatism when rubbed on the skin. However, hunting of the alpine marmot still occurs for sport purposes. This is a danger to the species, as they are relatively slow at breeding. Certain sub-populations of marmot may be threatened such as the those in the Jura and in Germany. There is a population in Rodna that is very small and threatened by poaching.FONTE:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The groundhog (Marmota monax), also known as a woodchuck, whistle-pig, or in some areas as a land-beaver, is a rodent of the family Sciuridae, belonging to the group of large ground squirrels known as marmots. Other marmots, such as the yellow-bellied and hoary marmots, live in rocky and mountainous areas, but the woodchuck is a lowland creature. It is widely distributed in North America and common in the northeastern and central United States. Groundhogs are found as far north as Alaska, with their habitat extending southeast to Alabama.
The groundhog is the largest sciurid in its geographical range, typically measuring 40 to 65 cm (16 to 26 in) long (including a 15 cm (6 in) tail) and weighing 2 to 4 kg (4 to 9 lb). In areas with fewer natural predators and large amounts of alfalfa, groundhogs can grow to 80 cm (30 in) and 14 kg (31 lb). Groundhogs are well adapted for digging, with short but powerful limbs and curved, thick claws. Unlike other sciurids, the groundhog's spine is curved, more like that of a mole, and the tail is comparably shorter as well—only about one-fourth of body length. Suited to their temperate habitat, groundhogs are covered with two coats of fur: a dense grey undercoat and a longer coat of banded guard hairs that gives the groundhog its distinctive "frosted" appearance.
In the wild, groundhogs can live up to six years, with two or three being average. In captivity, groundhogs are reported to live from 9-14 years, with the original Wiarton Willie being said to have lived for 22. Common predators for groundhogs include wolves, coyotes, foxes, bobcats, bears, large hawks, owls, and dogs. Young groundhogs are often at risk for predation by snakes, which easily enter the burrow.
Groundhogs are excellent burrowers, using burrows for sleeping, rearing young, and hibernating. The average groundhog has been estimated to move approximately 1 m3 (35 cu ft), or 320 kg (710 lb), of dirt when digging a burrow. Though groundhogs are the most solitary of the marmots, several individuals may occupy the same burrow. Groundhog burrows usually have two to five entrances, providing groundhogs their primary means of escape from predators. Burrows are particularly large, with up to 14 metres (46 ft) of tunnels buried up to 1.5 metres (5 ft) underground, and can pose a serious threat to agricultural and residential development by damaging farm machinery and even undermining building foundations. Groundhogs hydrate through eating leafy plants rather than from a natural water source.
Groundhogs are one of the few species that enter into true hibernation, and often build a separate "winter burrow" for this purpose. This burrow is usually in a wooded or brushy area and is dug below the frost line and remains at a stable temperature well above freezing during the winter months. In most areas, groundhogs hibernate from October to March or April, but in more temperate areas, they may hibernate as little as 3 months. To survive the winter, they are at their maximum weight shortly before entering hibernation. They emerge from hibernation with some remaining body fat to live on until the warmer spring weather produces abundant plant materials for food. They are mostly diurnal.
Despite their heavy-bodied appearance, groundhogs are accomplished swimmers and excellent tree climbers when escaping predators or when they want to survey their surroundings. They prefer to retreat to their burrows when threatened; if the burrow is invaded, the groundhog tenaciously defends itself with its two large incisors and front claws. Groundhogs are generally agonistic and territorial among their own species, and may skirmish to establish dominance.
Outside their burrow, individuals are alert when not actively feeding. It is common to see one or more nearly-motionless individuals standing erect on their hind feet watching for danger. When alarmed, they use a high-pitched whistle to warn the rest of the colony, hence the name "whistle-pig". Groundhogs may squeal when fighting, seriously injured, or caught by an enemy. Other sounds groundhogs may make are low barks and a sound produced by grinding their teeth. When groundhogs are frightened, the hairs of the tail stand straight up, giving the tail the appearance of a hair brush.
Usually groundhogs breed in their second year, but a small proportion may breed in their first. The breeding season extends from early March to mid- or late April, after hibernation. A mated pair remains in the same den throughout the 31–32 day gestation period. As birth of the young approaches in April or May, the male leaves the den. One litter is produced annually, usually containing 2–6 blind, hairless and helpless young. Young groundhogs are weaned and ready to seek their own dens at five to six weeks of age.
The groundhog prefers open country and the edges of woodland, and it is rarely far from a burrow entrance. Since the clearing of forests provided it with much more suitable habitat, the groundhog population is probably higher now than it was before the arrival of European settlers in North America. Groundhogs are often hunted for sport, which tends to control their numbers. However, their ability to reproduce quickly has tended to mitigate the depopulating effects of sport hunting. As a consequence, the groundhog is a familiar animal to many people in the United States and Canada.
Groundhogs raised in captivity can be socialized relatively easily; however, their aggressive nature can pose problems. Doug Schwartz, a zookeeper and groundhog trainer at the Staten Island Zoo, has been quoted as saying "They’re known for their aggression, so you’re starting from a hard place. [Their] natural impulse is to kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out. You have to work to produce the sweet and cuddly."
In the United States and Canada, the yearly Groundhog Day celebration has given the groundhog recognition and popularity, as has the movie of the same name. The most popularly known of these groundhogs are Wiarton Willie and Punxsutawney Phil, well kept as part of Groundhog Day festivities in Wiarton, Ontario and Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, respectively. A famous southern groundhog, General Beauregard Lee, is based at the Yellow River Game Ranch outside Atlanta, Georgia. His forecasts are also very popular in the Southeast.
Woodchucks are used in medical research on hepatitis B-induced liver cancer. When infected with Woodchuck Hepatitis B virus they are at 100% risk for developing liver cancer, making them a good model for testing Hepatitis B and liver cancer therapies.
Groundhog burrows have been known to reveal at least one archaeological site, the Ufferman Site in the U.S. state of Ohio. Although archaeologists have never excavated the Ufferman Site, numerous artifacts have been found because of the activities of local groundhogs. They favor the loose soil of the esker upon which the site lies, and their many diggings for their burrows have brought to the surface significant numbers of human and animal bones, pottery, and bits of stone.
The etymology of the name woodchuck is unrelated to wood or chucking. It stems from an Algonquian (possibly Narragansett) name for the animal, wuchak. The similarity between the words has led to the common tongue-twister:
How much wood would a woodchuck chuck
if a woodchuck could chuck wood?
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could
if a woodchuck could chuck wood!
FONTE IMMAGINE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Marmota_sibirica_-_%28Russia,_Mongolia%29_-_Rochers-de-Naye,_Switzerland,_2009.JPGFONTE:
Vancouver Island marmot
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Vancouver Island marmot (Marmota vancouverensis) naturally occurs only in the high mountains of Vancouver Island, in British Columbia, Canada. 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 uniquely Canadian species. 
The Vancouver Island marmot is typical of alpine-dwelling marmots in general form and physiology. However this species can be easily distinguished from other marmots by its rich, chocolate brown fur and contrasting white patches. No other marmot species naturally occurs on Vancouver Island. The Vancouver Island marmot, as its name suggests, is geographically restricted to Vancouver Island, and apparently evolved rapidly since retreat of the Cordilleran glaciation some 10,000 years before present. Marmota vancouverensis is distinct from other marmot species in terms of morphology, genetics, behaviour, and ecology.
An adult Vancouver Island Marmot typically measures 65 to 70 centimetres from the tip of its nose to the tip of its tail. Picture holding a large housecat. However, weights show tremendous seasonal variation. An adult female that weighs 3 kilograms when she emerges from hibernation in late April can weigh 4.5 to 5.5 kg by the onset of hibernation in late September or October. Adult males can be even larger, reaching weights of over 7 kg. In general, marmots lose about one-third of their body mass during the six-and-a-half months in which they hibernate during winter.
Life-history, habitat characteristics and population trends
Like all marmots, Vancouver Island marmots live in burrows and are obligate herbivores. Vancouver Island marmots have been documented to eat over 30 species of food plants, generally shifting from grasses in the early spring to plants such as lupines in late summer. Marmots hibernate for various amounts of time depending upon site characteristics and annual weather conditions. Wild Vancouver Island marmots hibernate, on average, for about 210 days of the year, generally from late September or early October until late April or early May. They generally hibernate for shorter periods in captivity
Vancouver Island marmots typically first breed at three or four years of age, although some have been observed to breed as two-year olds. Marmots breed soon after emergence from hibernation. Gestation is thought to be approximately 30–35 days. Litter sizes average 3-4 pups, and weaned pups generally emerge above ground for the first time in early July.
Systematic marmot surveys have been conducted since 1979, with variable count effort and coverage of the Island. Suitable meadows are rare compared to nearby regions of the British Columbian mainland or the Olympic peninsula of Washington State; habitat scarceness is believed to be the primary reason for the rarity of this marmot species. Most marmots live above 1000 metres elevation in meadows that face south to west. It is believed that populations expanded during the 1980s, Some natural meadows may be kept clear of invading trees by snow-creep and periodic avalanches or fire.
Causes of marmot population declines are multiple. Over the long term (i.e., periods involving thousands of years), climate changes have caused both increases and declines of open alpine habitat that constitute suitable marmot habitat. Over more recent time scales, population dynamics may have been influenced by short-term weather patterns and systematic changes in the landscape. In particular, forest clearcutting at low elevations likely altered dispersal patterns. Sub-adult marmots typically disperse from the subalpine meadows in which they were born. Dispersal involves traversing lowland conifer forests and valleys to other subalpine meadows. However, clearcutting has provided marmots with new open areas which constitute habitat. Unfortunately, rapid forest regeneration makes such man-made habitats unsuitable over a few years. One study concluded that clearcuts therefore act as a kind of population "sink" in which long-term reproduction and survival rates are reduced to the point of unsustainability Most recent studies have shown the main cause of recent decline to be excessive predation. Major predators upon Vancouver Island marmots include Golden eagles, cougars and wolves.
The endangered Vancouver Island marmot remains one of the world's rarest mammals. In 1997 there were so few numbers of marmots on Vancouver Island that managers took the bold step of capturing some to create a "genetic lifeboat" and therefore create the possibility of restoring wild populations. The first marmots went to Toronto Zoo in 1997, but this initial effort was quickly followed by efforts made by the Calgary Zoo and Mountainview Conservation and Breeding Centre in Langley, BC. The Marmot Recovery Foundation also built a dedicated marmot facility on Mt. Washington, Vancouver Island to further facilitate captive breeding and pre release conditioning. The fundamental idea was to produce marmots in a fashion that would facilitate their eventual return to the wild.
In 1998 a new model for species recovery was born involving the government, private industry and public donors. A census in late 2003 resulted in a count of only 21 wild marmots known to be present on Vancouver Island. After these findings, marmots were released from captivity in different places to try to get the population back up to a reasonable number.
These marmots are still classified as endangered. The cumulative captive breeding program has steadily grown, with 130 individuals in captivity (2010) and 442 weaned pups born in captivity since 2000. A number of individuals have been released to Strathcona Provincial Park, Mount Cain, Mount Washington and more southern mountains. From 2003-2010 the Marmot Recovery Foundation and the British Columbia Ministry of Environment have released 308 marmots back into the wild. More releases are expected in the upcoming years to increase the wild population, estimated at 250-300 individuals in 2010.
Based on genetic analyses, the closest relatives of the Vancouver Island Marmot are the Hoary Marmot (Marmota caligata) and the Olympic Marmot (Marmota olympus). There is some debate, on genetic grounds, about which of the two nearby mainland species is most closely related to the Vancouver Island marmot or when marmots first arrived on the island.  The differences in DNA observed between species is small. In 2009, Nagorsen and Cardini identified, from museum specimens, substantial physical differences between species that can only be explained by rapid evolution in a relatively isolated island context. .
Use as symbol
Because of their endangered status, Vancouver Island Marmots have become a conservation symbol in British Columbia.
Mukmuk, "sidekick" to the three official mascots for the 2010 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, is portrayed as a member of the species.
The Victoria Royals hockey team mascot, "Marty the Marmot", is based on the Vancouver Island Marmot, which the team created to represent the importance of the species to the Vancouver Island region. The marmot was also the former mascot of the now defunct Victoria Salmon Kings hockey team.
FONTE IMMAGINE: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Marmota_flaviventris.jpg