Friday, April 25, 2014

Eager males, or...?

With our first sighting of a marmot emerging from hibernation on our second day, I feel like the season of marmots has begun!

I’ve seen four marmots at the colony I’ve been observing, Picnic. A yearling and an adult emerged from a burrow way up the slope at the base of a cliff. Two adults emerged from burrows at the base of Picnic.

Despite this being my fourth year in the early season, I continue to gain new insights into the behavior of these animals. The other day I saw one of the adults, which I’m assuming is a male for the time being, sniffing around the snow-covered colony, honing in a location, and then digging a hole and disappearing for 20 minutes. After coming back out, he repeated this behavior.

Adult males tend to be one of the first animals to emerge, presumably to mate. At Picnic, in the absence of a bounty of emerged females, this particular animal appears to have taken the initiative to dig through the snow in order to enter burrows that may house semi-hibernating females.

I haven’t seen that animal again since that day. Maybe he went off to another colony to find more females . . . or at least burrows he can access through the snow!

As of right now, I can’t say this is the animal’s intention. However, with careful observations of the females that emerge from particular burrows and genetic data on those females’ pups, we may be able to figure it out!

Picnic colony as of today. I've been spending my mornings here.

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