Marmots are large rodents that often become nuisances to gardeners, farmers, and homeowners due to their appetites and burrowing habits. The yellow-bellied marmot is the most common species in the United States and a close relative of the woodchuck. Also known as rockchucks or whistle pigs, yellow-bellied marmots are social creatures that live in communities of 10 to 20 individuals.
During the spring and summer, the animals undergo a period of hyperphagia, a feeding frenzy designed to fatten the marmots so they can survive the coming winter. By huddling together in underground burrows lined with hay or grass, marmots hibernate for up to 200 days at a time, easily spending half of their 13 to 15 years of life asleep.
Yellow-bellied marmots grow about 2 feet long and weigh up to 12 pounds. They have coarse brown or tan fur with light yellow coloring on their bellies and large claws on their front feet used for digging extensive burrows underground. Their stout bodies are designed to hold thick layers of fat and their prominent front teeth allow them to chew the stalks, leaves, blossoms, and fruits of their favorite plants.
High elevations and rocky outcroppings used as lookout posts are favored habitats for marmots. They can also be found among pastures, meadows, and rocky steppes. The animals have been known to live among the foothills of mountainous regions, burrowing beneath slopes of tumbled-down rocks and boulders, as well. In urban areas, marmots can be seen sunning themselves or gnawing on the grass at the side of the road.
Are marmots known to enter homes or yards?
Residential neighborhoods may see infestations of marmots if their preferred food sources, such as clover, herbaceous greens, or garden vegetables, are present. Farmers encounter problems when marmots enter fields where cereal grains, root vegetables, or herbs grow. Marmots are naturally shy of humans and will not enter homes. They prefer to scavenge where they have a clear view of danger.
Do marmots harm people or property?
Marmots can cause major damage to gardens and crops. When feeding, marmots tend to chew the entire plant down to the ground, leaving nothing. Ripe vegetables, herbs, and cereal grains are the most enticing temptations to hungry marmots, who will dig beneath most fences to get at desired plants.
Additionally, unchecked burrows may undermine the structural integrity of manmade dams, levees, or embankments. Marmots can also carry ticks, which transmit Rocky Mountain spotted fever and other diseases to humans.
Control and Safety
The best way to keep marmots out of yards and gardens is to install rodent-proof fencing. Fences constructed of close-knit wire mesh should extend at least one foot underground and bow outward at the top. In some cases, it may become necessary to run an electrified wire around the base of the fence.
Trapping and Removal
Never approach a wild animal unless trained to do so. If marmot populations become out of hand, contact Critter Control specialists to deal with the problem. Our technicians have the knowledge, certifications, and tools to humanely trap and remove marmots.