Marmots are large rodents that often become a nuisance 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.
Marmots prefer food sources, such as clover, herbaceous greens, or garden vegetables. 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.
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.
Aside from the fact that they may be eating your plants, marmots are not all that dangerous, preferring to lounge around all day instead of chasing you. As long as you leave them alone, they’ll leave you alone. This means, however, that they may bite you if you try to feed them or you accidentally disturb them.
The most dangerous thing about marmots is that they can carry a bunch of nasty things like ticks that cause Lyme disease, or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. It is also possible for them to transmit hantavirus or rabies. These diseases can cause serious medical problems that cause anything from minor aches and pains to severe damage of the nervous and respiratory systems.
Let us look at some shreds of evidence
Marmots plague Eastern Washington neighborhoods
June 24, 2009 │The Oregonian
The large rodents have become pests in the Eastern Washington town of Prosser. Diners at a restaurant in Prosser were startled Monday when a furry marmot wandered through the front door and settled into a corner.
That was no surprise to city Administrator Charlie Bush, who says the big rodents have long been a problem in the central Washington wine town.
In 2006 and 2007, the city paid $5,700 over two years to hire trappers to thin the population. But last year, the City Council ran short of money and decided to get out of the marmot-control business.
Three years ago, residents complained that the rodents were swarming a 75-unit development of manufactured homes near the Prosser airport, burrowing under homes and fouling front porches with their droppings. There were even unconfirmed accounts of marmots attacking people.
Marmots invade Matterhorn area
September 14, 2017
“So sweet!”, coo the tourists. “Shoot them,” say the authorities in Zermatt, where marmots have become a plague. The furry rodents are causing damage to meadows and houses. “If someone leaves a balcony door open, marmots sneak into the house. They also dig beneath retaining walls,” Romy Biner-Hauser, Zermatt’s mayor, told Swiss Public Radio, SRF. “
Farmers in Zermatt are particularly hard hit by the influx of marmots. Shepherd and organic farmer Paul Julen can no longer use one of his fields because of all the marmot holes.
“The risk of accidents is very high when there are so many marmot holes in a meadow,” he said, remarking that he almost lost two newborn lambs that had fallen into a marmot burrow.
The currents rodenticides and traps are being used to control this menace. Repeated exposure to rodenticides builds up resistance in rodents. The pesticides also contribute to air,water and soil pollution. Farmers,pesticide applicators and horticultural workers may contact with pesticides in their professional environment. Several millions of cases of pesticides poisoning are registered every year. Frequent rodenticide applications make the problem worse.
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