AppearanceAn adult alpine marmot may stand at 18 cm at the shoulder. They reach between 42 and 54 cm in length, not including the tail, which measures between 13 to 16 cm on average. The body mass is significantly lighter in spring, when these animals weigh 2.8 to 3.3 kg , than in fall, when they weigh 5.5 to 8 kg . The alpine marmot is sometimes considered the largest squirrel species, although the closely related hoary marmot is sometimes heavier. Its coat is a mixture of blonde, reddish and dark gray fur. While most of the alpine marmot's fingers have claws, its thumbs have nails.
HabitatAs its name suggests, the alpine marmot ranges throughout the European Alps, ranging through France, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, Slovenia and Austria. They have also been introduced elsewhere with sub-populations in the Pyrenees, Massif Central, Jura, Vosges, Black Forest, Apennine Mountains, High Tatras, and Romanian Carpathians. Marmots are abundant in their core population; in the Romanian Carpathians, for example, the population is estimated at 1,500 individuals. Alpine marmots prefer alpine meadows and high-altitude pastures and colonies, where they live in deep burrow systems situated in alluvial soil or rocky areas.
Marmots may be seen "sun bathing", but actually this is often on a flat rock and it is believed they are actually cooling and possibly this is a strategy to deal with parasites. Marmots are temperature sensitive and an increase in temperature can cause habitat loss for the species as a whole.
FoodAlpine marmots eat plants such as grasses and herbs, as well as grain, insects, spiders and worms. They prefer young and tender plants over any other kind, and hold food in their forepaws while eating. They mainly emerge from their burrows to engage in feeding during the morning and afternoon, as they are not well suited to heat, which may result in them not feeding at all on very warm days. When the weather is suitable, they will consume large amounts of food in order to create a layer of fat on their body, enabling them to survive their long hibernation period.
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