squirrel extermination

Giant Squirrels: Marmots

With an average body weight of 30 pounds or about 14 kilograms and a height of 1.5 feet or about 45 centimetres (when standing on two feet), the Marmots are considered as the world's largest squirrels. These "gigantic" squirrels naturally inhabit steeps, alpine pastures and grasslands. They are commonly found in Europe, North America and Asia.

Three species of Marmots are found in many parts of Alaska. These are: the hoary marmot, the Alaska marmot and the woodchuck. Hoary marmots usually inhabit the bases of talus slopes which are active, most of which are in the mountains found in the south-western, central and south-eastern parts of Alaska. On the other hand, the Alaska marmots live mostly in the Brooks Range while the woodchucks prefer east-central Alaska's dry lowlands where the river valleys are found.

Of these three, the hoary and Alaska marmots are most related to each other. Both of them can weigh up to 10 pounds or more with a total height of not less than 24 inches. But they can grow as much as 30 pounds depending on their feeding situation. Woodchucks are a little bit lighter than the other two. The weight of these squirrels does not go down to 2 pounds, but it too can't exceed 6 pounds under normal circumstances. Their average height is 20 inches but they can grow longer than that.

Like their relative, marmots also try to get fat by the end of summer in order to prepare for the winter season. They need to accumulate as much fats as possible in order to sustain the needs of their bodies during winter hibernation. Three species have similar body shapes but are quite very different from the body shapes of the other squirrels not belonging to the marmot family. They have broad heads with small ears; short legs but clawed front paws; stout-looking bodies and very furry tails.

Alaska Marmot
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The hoary marmots and the Alaska marmots are not only similar is body size, these marmots also have the same covering. These squirrels have grey body fur and a reddish tail. Their faces and lower back usually have darker shades of grey although these two differ in the color of their feet and nose. Hoary marmots have dark brown feet and a white-patched nose while an Alaska marmot does not have any white spot on its face and its feet is light brown.

Hoary Marmot
Hoary marmots are often called "Caligata" which means "booted" in Latin because of the different color of their feet. On the other hand, the woodchucks have a solid reddish brown color with no marking on their faces. Woodchuck means "similar-sized animals" in the Cree Indian dialect and this name has been given to woodchuck marmots because of their relatively uniform sizes, not because of certain behaviours or characteristics.

The two similar marmots, Hoary and Alaska, like to live in talus slope because they secured in these areas from their common predators. These areas also provide good lookout stations where a "guarding" marmot can keep watch for incoming predators. Their dens below the ground can reach up to 30 feet long with chambers that has nests made from grass. The main entrance to their den is usually covered with dirt mound and is normally concealed from plain view. Like termites and ants, marmots are social animals, meaning, each of the marmots that live is the same den performs a specific role for the entire family.

These squirrels are also real hibernators; they can enter torpor state in the winter and be asleep the entire time. They can maintain their body heat despite the dropping temperature of their surroundings. They hibernate in their burrows; these same burrows serve as their homes during summer season. Before they start hibernating, they sort of plug the opening of their nest in order to keep the cold air and snow from entering. The plug is made from dirt, faecal materials and some vegetation. Their hibernation ends somewhere in the end of April or the early days of May. They immediately scurry to look for food in order to sustain their bodies which by this time, have already consumed the layers of fats that they have accumulated before the winter started.

Alaska marmots are quite different from the hoary and the woodchucks because they create separate hibernation dens, that is, they do not use the dens in which they live in during summer. This special den only has one entrance, and is strategically dug in an exposed ridge because these places are usually the first ones to become exposed to the sun when the winter season comes. The single opening of the den is also plugged by the marmots from the inside, inhibiting other animals to enter the den during the hibernation period. Unlike the hoary and the woodchucks that mate once they get out from their den after hibernation, Alaska marmots mate before they get out of the den. These winter dens can last long, experts have observe that some of these dens have been there for 20 years or more already. In summary, marmots spend most of their lifetime inside winter dens or that is about 2/3 of each year.

During spring and summer, marmots are busy looking for food and interacting with other marmots during the early hours of the morning and during late afternoons. However, marmots also leave their dens during other periods of the day for other activities. To warn other marmots and other animals that they are already entering a taken marmot territory, marmots would rub their faces and sexual glands on their surroundings -- rocks, trails, trees, etc.

Marmots have pelt colors that help them adapt to their surroundings which are usually rocks that are lichen-colored or soils that appear to be rusty-brown. But despite this feature, marmots are still very good at spotting predators like foxes, bears and eagles. When one Alaska marmot spots a predator, it sends a warning to its fellow marmots by producing a low-pitched "scream". Woodchucks and hoary marmots make a very loud whistle (which may not be low-pitched) to call the attention of their fellow marmots too. They will immediately seek for covering for their safety.
squirrel extermination