By Mike Flunker, Editor-in-Chief, UAS Whalesong
If you’re a frequent visitor to the alpine meadows of Juneau’s mountaintops, you’ve likely heard a shrill whistle from the rocks around you.
Closer inspection will often reveal a furry face looking back at you, as the hoary marmot is warning their friends of your presence. Marmots are rodents and the largest members of the squirrel family. They’re vegetarians who forage on alpine plants to pack on weight for winter hibernation.
Marmots live in family groups usually consisting of one male, multiple females, and their young. They form large burrows with elaborate tunnels and multiple entrances. These burrows include a spacious room called the “hibernaculum,” where the marmots hibernate together.
In Alaska, there are two species of marmot. The hoary marmot lives in Southeast and Southcentral Alaska, while the Alaskan marmot lives in the Brook’s Range, north of the Yukon River. On Feb. 2, Alaska celebrates Marmot Day, an analog to the Groundhog Day of the lower 48. Remember, despite how chill they may look, don’t feed or harass wild animals. Marmots are best left doing what they do best, eating and screaming from on top of boulders.