Yellow-bellied Marmot

Common Name: Yellow-bellied Marmot
Class: Mammalia
Order: Rodentia
Family: Sciuridae
Genus: Marmota
Species: Marmota flaviventris

Yellow-bellied Marmot Taxonomy/Description

Yellow-bellied marmots belong to the Mammalian Order Rodentia, in the squirrel family, Sciruridae. Sciruirdae includes all species of prairie dog, chipmunk and the woodchuck. The yellow-bellied marmot's scientific name is Marmota flaviventris. The generic name, marmota, is derived from the Romansch word murmont, which means “mountain mouse”. The specific name, flaviventris, means "yellow belly" in Latin, referring to the animal’s yellow underside.

photo M. Noonan

Marmots are large, stocky animals. Yellow-bellied marmots are easily identified by the brownish fur on their back coupled with their yellow to orange undersides. Males are larger than females. They usually weigh about ten pounds, and grow to about 30 inches. Females reach weights of eight pounds and lengths of 25 inches.

Yellow-bellied Marmot Habitat/Diet

Yellow-bellied marmots live at elevations of about 6,000-13,000ft throughout western North America, including the United States and Canada. Highland pastures, meadows and steppes are the preferred habitat for this species. The fields in which these animals construct their burrows are surrounded by their primary food sources. Herbaceous plants, leaves, blossoms, legumes, grains fruits and insects comprise the yellow-bellied marmot’s main diet.

photo M. Noonan

Yellow-bellied Marmot Behavior/Reproduction

Although members of the squirrel family, marmots are a type of ground dwelling squirrel. They are primarily terrestrial and diurnal. The basic social structure of the yellow-bellied marmot is a single male with a harem of two or three females. Males are territorial, and aggressively defend their harem. Females are not agonistic, raising offspring jointly within the harem.

photo M. Noonan

Marmots maintain a burrow system more than a yard in depth. Their hibernation burrows, which they may use as early as August, usually exceed 15-20ft in depth. Breeding occurs in the spring, usually in April, shortly after the animals emerge from hibernation. Gestation is about 30 days. A female gives birth to one litter of 3-8 offspring each year in the spring. They are born altricial. This means the baby marmots are born relatively undeveloped, requiring large amounts of parental care. Three weeks later they emerge from the nest. The young marmots remain with their mother until the following summer, even hibernating with her. The male of the harem drives out the male offspring upon their awakening from hibernation. Female offspring are allowed to remain in the harem. Sexual maturity is achieved at two years of age, although they do not breed until three years. The lifespan of the yellow-bellied marmot is approximately 13-15 years.

Yellow-bellied Marmot Conservation

The yellow-bellied marmot is not endangered. Some consider the species a pest, and populations are stable enough to support human hunting. However, as with all species, pollution and habitat destruction are an ever present threat. Continued regulation of human interactions with the yellow-bellied marmot will ensure its prosperous existence.

photo M. Noonan

Content provided by Canisius College students under the direction of Michael Noonan, PhD.