The marmot is a large, diurnal, burrowing RODENT
of the SQUIRREL
family, native to Eurasia and North America. Marmots are rotund and stocky, weigh 2-9 kg, and have thick fur, short bushy tails and small ears.
Distribution and Habitat
Of 13 species, 4 occur in Canada, inhabiting grassy areas and rocky slopes of mountains and lowlands. Yellow-bellied, hoary and Vancouver Island marmots (Marmota flaviventris
, M. caligata
and M. vancouverensis
, respectively) are found only in the Western provinces; the woodchuck (possible corruption of the Cree word wuchak
) or groundhog (M. monax
), in patchy distribution throughout Canada, excluding Nunavut and Newfoundland. The Vancouver Island marmot, found only in Canada, inhabits a few subalpine sites on VANCOUVER ISLAND
Marmots eat green PLANTS
and can become pests in vegetable gardens. They signal danger by shrill calls. Marmots hibernate in burrows for 4-9 months; on awakening they may be almost half their autumn weight. The whimsical observance of Groundhog Day (February 2) recognizes the marmot's impending emergence from a long winter's rest (much later in colder climates).
Reproduction and Development
Females mate after spring emergence and after a short gestation bear 2-9 young.
See also ENDANGERED ANIMALS.
The woodchuck or groundhog is found in patchy distribution throughout Canada, excluding Newfoundland (Macmillan Illustrated Animal Encyclopedia).
Vancouver Island Marmot
It is not known why the marmot is disappearing form Vancouver Island (artwork by Heather Caldwell).
Woodchuck & Yellow-bellied Marmot Distribution
Hoary & Vancouver Island Marmot Distribution
Marmots hibernate in burrows for 4-8 months in winter (artwork by Jan Sovak, 1989).
J. MARY TAYLOR
Links to Other Sites
Check out the natural history of the woodchuck (Marmota monax) from the "Hinterland Who's Who" website.
Canadian Biodiversity Website
A great information source for all budding biologists. Learn about biodiversity theory, natural history, and conservation issues. From McGill’s Redpath Museum.
Vancouver Island Marmot
Discover the natural history of the very rare and endangered Vancouver Island marmot at this nicely illustrated Marmot Recovery Foundation website.
Captive Breeding and Reintroduction
Click on the animal names at the bottom of the page to find out more about the Toronto Zoo's captive breeding and reintroduction programs for rare and endangered species.