Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Marmot abuse in verse

RMBL has been doing a lot of art-science fusion recently and this year there's a semi-regular poetry slam.  The other week Drew Freed threw down a lovely (but, a'hem, mis-guided) poem about the golden-mantled ground squirrels that live here and are also the subject of study.  To set the record straight, squirrels LOVE marmots--they listen to and respond to their alarm calls and they don't eat the same foods so that there's no love lost between them.

Here's Drew's poem.

Thoughts from a Ground Squirrel
By Drew Freed

Psh, you humans, where is the love?
We all know that RMBL’s marmot biased enough
Maybe the perception that you get from above
Makes you forget the little guys and it’s tough
Marmot posters here, marmot t-shirts there
But mention ground squirrels, nobody even cares
The lesser known Sciuridae
Is takin’ the spotlight today
This dis will make the marmots pay
It’s a full on war I say!
Let’s start:
You’re a fat, ugly, lazy squirrel
Just a squeakin’ yellow-bellied terrified little girl
And this next one might send marmoteers into shocks
But you can’t even protect your pups from one mangy fox!?
Oooh, did I hit a soft spot, too soon?
Well it wouldn’t be a problem if you weren’t a buffoon
And I get it, when people see you, they all say aww
But everything I do is cute, and I don’t take a day off
You like to get a rock and lay around
Or spend time sleeping underground
But my day is spent collecting nuts
And berries, insects, avoiding hawks
We stuff our cheeks before our guts
Run on all fours while you sit on your butts
You like to eat our dandelions, steal our food!?
No wonder the marmots put me in a bad mood
And for all that belly, what you got to show?
Your alarm call is weak, that chirp everybody knows
But enough about the marmots, that contest I put to rest
When it comes to glorified groundhogs, RMBL is obsessed
Sorry if I offended, got that off my furry chest

But if you’re talkin’ squirrels, better believe I’m the best.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Pups on the move!

We are fully engaged in pup season and not only are we trying to catch litters emerging up and down the valley, we're also being foiled by the mothers--who sometimes move litters before we can catch them.  It's pretty funny when we see this happening but we don't see it a lot.

In town the other day the squirrel folks stumbled on Stitches moving her litter of 4 across the road and were able to get photos of the process. Apparently, Stitches looked both ways before crossing the road...and, as the photo below shows, she was able to GALLOP across the road!  Who knew?

Thanks to Jackie Aliperti for the photo!

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tagged marmots on the move?

A Crested Butte resident just posted a facebook post on the RMBL webpage with a video of a tagged marmot in its car.  One of ours for sure, but who?  The marmot, after taking a trip to Gunnison and back and around town, scurried away when he set a trap. All of our animals agree to participate in what we do; this one apparently left to avoid being trapped and look what happened--he encountered a trap in CB!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

And the fox takes its toll!

This year is rapidly turning into an exceptionally weird year.  We have our second litter up now. It might have emerged yesterday, but we learned about it when someone saw a fox carrying a marmot pup away from the RMBL Library. In town there's been a nesting fox pair for over a decade and the foxes feed their kits on marmot pups (yes, foxes have to eat too).

The litter of at least 4 surviving pups has emerged from a burrow beneath the Library porch. Two litters this early in June is extremely rare in the past 54 years. I thought that this was the earliest, but Ken just checked his early records and found evidence of one litter emerging on the 13th, 14th, 15th, 18th,  and 19th of June.

Regardless of the precedence, our 'pup season' has begun early--too early--and we're now madly trying to spend more time in the field looking for pup emergence (they usually emerge later in the AM). Meanwhile, it's HOT--very hot--and we've ceased trapping adults later in the day.  Oh well...live and learn and there's always something to learn here.  Marmoteering is, after all, a 'full-employment scheme'!


Monday, June 20, 2016

Litters are up!

It's not even the first day of summer and we just had a litter emerge above ground!  The pup season has begun...now we have to scramble to catch pups in the day or so after first emergence so as to mark them before they get eaten by foxes, raptors, or coyotes. It's a race.

Ana saw 5 pups in marmot meadow playing around 'south pyramid rock'.  We set some traps to catch them and their mother immediately began moving them to another burrow.  Mothers these days...

This is one of the earliest litters ever recorded over the past 54 years of marmot study!  Most of our litters start emerging around the 4th of July (yes, marmots can be patriotic, or perhaps they're interested in the Crested Butte July 4th parade!), and we normally have only 1 or 2 emerge annually much before the 4th.

It was a cold and snowy spring here; based on spring sightings at Marmot Meadow, copulation probably occurred in the ground before the females emerged from hibernation.

Stay tuned for more details...

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Marmots on the move

It's that time of year again; marmots are on the move!  This morning, while holding a banana and looking outside my cabin window at the scenery, I saw a marmot!  Marmots don't typically live on the hillside where our cabin is located and I think we were both equally surprised--his tail hair was piloerect and he reared up and looked at me while I stood motionless looking for ear tags. After a long look at each other, I peeled my banana and he ran under the porch. A few minutes later I saw the same marmot exploring the area outside my kitchen window while I was washing up my breakfast dishes. But it was when he was outside my bedroom window, fossicking around our wood pile that I snapped this picture.  No ear tags, beautiful pelage, glorious tail!  Marmots are on the move again, looking for places to settle in.  I suspect it's a he (shape of head), and he's a 2 or 3-year old male looking for a colony to invade.  Remarkably, about 5-10 min later, we spotted him 500 m down valley, coursing through two different marmot colonies, exploring burrows and moving on quickly.  We lost him as he moved towards an occupied burrow, but soon after heard alarm calls coming from that area. If he sticks around, he'll get ear tags and a mark so we can identify him from afar.  I hope he does!