Marmots are the loved mascot of the French Alps.
They are however not just an alpine creature but can be found around the world with 15 species in total. Resembling a large guinea pig, they tend to live in mountainous regions such as the Alps, northern Apennines, Eurasian steppes, Carpathians, Tatras and Pyrenees in Europe and Asia; the Rocky Mountains, Black Hills, Cascades and Sierra Nevada in North America; and the Deosai Plateau in Pakistan and Ladakh in India.
Marmots dwell in the mountains between 800 and 3000 metres. They live in family groups in burrows, called galleries, and hibernate throughout the winter. Most marmots are highly social and use a distinctive loud high pitched whistle to communicate. They are vegetarian and eat many types of grasses, berries, lichens, mosses, roots and flowers. Apparently they like to sunbathe as they are often photographed basking in the sun!
There are many species of marmot:
Alpine marmot found only in Europe in the Alps, northern Apennines in Italy, Carpathians, Tatras and reintroduced in the Pyrenees
Forest-steppe marmot found in south Russia
Gray marmot or Altai marmot found in Siberia
Bobak marmot from central Europe to central Asia
Alaska marmot, Brower’s marmot found in Alaska – Alaska celebrate national Marmot Day on February 2nd
Black-capped marmot found in eastern Siberia
Long-tailed marmot, golden marmot, or red marmot found in central Asia
Himalayan marmot or Tibetan snow pig found in the Himalayas
Menzbier’s marmot found in central Asia
Groundhog, woodchuck, or whistlepig found in most of North America
Tarbagan marmot, Mongolian marmot found in Siberia
Hoary marmot found in northwestern North America
Yellow-bellied marmot found in southwestern Canada and western United States
Olympic marmot found on the Olympic Peninsula, USA
Vancouver Island marmot found on Vancouver Island, Canada
That’s a lot of marmots!
The etymology of the name marmot is uncertain. It may have arisen from the Gallo-Romance prefix marm- meaning to mumble or murmur or a possible origin is post-classical Latin, mus montanus, meaning mountain mouse. Marmot has been used to name restaurants, bars and hotels across the Alps. In Val d’Isere there are Les Marmottes chairlift and Les Marmottes restaurant.
Alpine marmots can live as long as 15 to 18 years. They are easy to spot in Val d’Isere in the summer months and this season we spotted them venturing out of their burrows on the pistes to nibble on some grass at the end of April before the ski season ended. Come and stay at Le Chardon and marmot spot!
Penny, Le Chardon Mountain Lodges