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The marmot

Marmota marmota

Marmots measure between 50cm and 60cm and their tail is about 15cm long; they are rather sturdily built and weigh 3-6kg. They have dense fur, which almost completely hides their short head and tiny ears. The forelegs are perfectly adapted to burying holes: they are particularly robust and have very strong toes and nails. The coat is mainly of brown-greyish colour, the muzzle is reddish-whitish, whereas the top of the head, the back part of the shoulders and the end of the tail are darker coloured. The lower parts of the body and the inside of the legs are reddish-yellowish with rust-red tints. Mating usually takes place in the den, between the end of April and the beginning of May. After a gestation period of just over one month, two to four young are born naked and with closed eyes. Only fifteen days later, they are already covered with fur, and after forty days they will leave the den for the first time and are already self-sufficient. Their preferred Alpine habitats are sunny, somewhat steep slopes, covered in grassland with rocks or boulders.
Marmots are very social animals: they spend their days looking for food, sun-bathing and playing with their companions. The individuals do, however, always remain in the vicinity of their respective dens.
The marmot
 
The marmot

Behaviour

Marmots spend the winter months in hibernation, during which their metabolism slows down and they gradually use up the fat reserves they have accumulated during the summer season.
A complex system of dens is absolutely essential as a refuge from danger during the day, as a sleeping-place for the night and, obviously, for hibernation.
There are various types of refuges that differ greatly one from another, and the dens are used in different ways depending on the season. The summer dens are not very deep and have many exits, whereas the winter dens have a single access tunnel that is sometimes several metres long. At the end of the tunnel, a large room is dug out and carefully prepared with dry herbaceous plants. During hibernation, the entrance to the den is thoroughly sealed with earth, and the marmots can, in this way, spend the period from the end of September to March-April there, in total tranquillity and with their own families.
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