Anne Elliott

Anne Elliott

Posted on 09/06/2014

Photo taken on August 28, 2014

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Anne Elliott
Yellow-bellied Marmot
rock chuck
southern Alberta
Marmota flaviventris
Family: Sciuridae
Order: Rodentia
Genus: Marmota
Subgenus: Petromarmota
collecting grasses
side view
wild animal

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Yellow-bellied Marmot gathering grasses

Yellow-bellied Marmot gathering grasses
These Yellow-bellied Marmots were so much fun to watch. This is the "best" shot I took of an adult that was busily collecting grasses to take back to its burrow. Pretty much impossible to get a shot, they move so fast and partly hidden by the long grass. These animals collect and store these grasses both for food and to line their burrows.

"Yellow-bellied marmots usually weigh from 1.6 to 5.2 kilograms (3.5 to 11.5 lb) when fully grown, though males typically weigh more than females. Adult males typically weigh between 3 to 5 kilograms (6.6 to 11.0 lb); females typically weigh between 1.6 to 4 kilograms (3.5 to 8.8 lb). They get fatter in the autumn just before hibernating.

Their territory is about 4 to 7 acres (2 to 3 ha) around a number of summer burrows. Marmots choose to dig burrows under rocks because predators are less likely to see their burrow. Predators include wolves, foxes, coyotes, dogs and eagles.

Yellow-bellied marmots spend about 80% of their life in their burrow, 60% of which is spent hibernating. They often spend mid-day and night in a burrow as well. These burrows are usually constructed on a slope, such as a hill, mountain, or cliff. The hibernation burrows can be up to 5 to 7 metres (16 to 23 ft) deep, but the burrows constructed for daily use are usually only 1 metre (3.3 ft) deep. Their hibernation period varies on elevation, but it is typically from September to May.

Yellow-bellied marmots are diurnal. The marmot is also an omnivore, eating grass, grains, leaves, flowers, legumes, fruit, grasshoppers, and bird eggs." From Wikipedia.

During three days away (26, 27 and 28 August 2014) with friends Cathy and Terry, we saw so many interesting things. This always happens when I go anywhere with them - every day is a very long, fun-filled day, full of exciting finds.

Perhaps I will simply mention some of the things and then add more detail to each photo as I add them to my photostream. Of course, we couldn't have had a more beautiful area to explore! Waterton Lakes National Park has amazing scenery and wildlife. The weather forecast that I saw before we left Calgary said that we were in for three beautiful days of sunshine - too often, it can be rainy weather. So, luck was on our side, giving us warm, sunny days - until the BIG STORM hit! We had driven eastwards from the park, hoping to see Yellow-bellied Marmots and, if we were really lucky, a Burrowing Owl. The storm was approaching very fast, around 5:00 p.m. just before we started our return trip to Calgary. It was like nothing I had ever seen before - a menacing shelf (?) cloud that was travelling fast and furious. Despite trying our best to get away from it, it eventually engulfed our car, surrounding us with more or less zero visibility, pounding hail, thunder and lightning, and very strong winds. There was nothing to do but stop the car and sit tight, hoping that the hail would not break the car windows and that this severe thunderstorm would not develop into a tornado! This storm was very scary, but at the same time, exciting (only because all turned out OK in the end!). Our road trip sure went out with a bang!

A few of the things we saw included fantastic scenery, 4 Black Bears (including one that was swimming in the lake), Bison, Deer (including several that we saw in the town of Waterton, where we stayed for two nights at the clean and friendly Bear Mountain Motel), Golden-mantled Ground Squirrels, Chipmunks, various bird species including the endangered Burrowing Owls, a few wildflowers, several Yellow-bellied Marmots (a first for me!), a few different insect species, and a family of Dusky Grouse that are uncommon to the Waterton Lakes National Park. I even got the chance to see three or four new-to-me old, wooden grain elevators.