Yellow-bellied Marmot – A Real Ham For The Camera

Usually when I have a marmot in my viewfinder it just turns into a staring match without many interesting poses from the rodent. But this guy was a show off.

I don’t know its sex but for the sake of convenience I’ll refer to it as a male. All images are presented in the order they were taken (with two different cameras so the file numbers aren’t sequential). Sorry, I didn’t have time to provide image techs this morning. 


The first time we found him yesterday morning he was in some rocks along the road but he was so shy I just took a few images and then went on my way.



But 53 minutes later he was almost immediately accepting of the presence of my pickup so he began to groom himself. With gusto.



I don’t know what he was doing or looking for “down there” but whatever it was…



it must have been nasty.



For a chunky little guy he could sure wrap his body into some weird contortions.



He did a lot of scratching – this time under his front left armpit. I didn’t have enough shutter speed to get the scratchin’ foot sharp but you get the idea.



His next itch was just above his left shoulder. His scratching technique reminded me of one of my favorite dogs in the past who was a champion scratcher.



Soon he left the safety of the rocks to feed on some of the nearby vegetation. He only stood erect a few times and each time I seemed to be at the wrong focal length to photograph it without cutting off body parts. This image was shot vertically and is almost full frame so the tip of his tail is lost forever.



His feeding technique was interesting. Several times he turned his head sideways in an apparent attempt to pluck the grasses off at their roots. If that’s why he did it I have no idea why it was necessary.



But other times he fed on the ends of very tall grasses.



With all of the spring rains we’ve had he had lots of greenery to choose from and it was interesting to watch how he used his paws to manipulate his food.



It was somewhat difficult to catch him out in the open except when he moved from one green clump to another. He fed for quite a while and then eventually he…



returned to the rocks to bask in the sun and perhaps to nap. He appeared to be so tired that at one point he…



gave me a cavernous yawn that showed off those immense rodent teeth which inevitably reminded me of a Saber-toothed Tiger. Soon after this shot was taken I drove on down the road and let him snooze in peace.

At one point I wondered aloud if Golden Eagles occasionally prey on these large rodents (a little research after I got home confirmed that they do). It seems like even eagles would have to take great care to avoid fearsome injuries from those teeth. For much of the time I was with the marmot there was a Red-tailed Hawk perched on a pole quite close behind me. Both rodent and predatory bird had to be aware of each other’s presence but neither showed any interest in the other.

I’m betting those teeth had something to do with that.





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