The Alpine Marmot Project

Welcome to the Alpine Marmot Project

Annual and Life Cycle

Annual Cycle

cycle de vie

Alpine marmots emerge from hibernation in early April. Their territory is generally still mostly covered by snow. In the first few days after they emerge, it is common to see them lick the snow and stay motionless for long periods. This phase of inaction may correspond to the full resumption of their normal physiological activities. Subsequently, marmots spend the vast majority of their time running between the different parts of their territory in search of food.

hibernation1
hibernation2
hibernation3

The beginning of the period of activity is marked by intense social activity: territorial defense and agressive interactions with subordinates of the family group and with those outside the group by dominant individuals, mating, gestation and birthing among dominant individuals, and playing   games and interacting among the subordinate one- to two-year-olds, and leaving the home territory by subordinate two-year-olds and older. This intense social activity is coupled with long periods of feeding.

The beginning of summer is marked by an important event because  after 30 days of gestation and 40 days in the den, the weaned marmots emerge for the first time from the burrow. The daily rhythm of activity becomes clearly divided into two parts:  at the beginning and end of a beautiful day, the marmots are essentially active, whereas in the middle of the day, they rest for  a long period  inside the burrow (Perrin 1993, Perrin et al. In 1993 ). Foraging activity is predominant.

In early fall, the time allocated to foraging gradually decreases as the marmots spend most of their time resting and watching their territory. They go into hibernation in October.

Life Cycle

Mating takes place within 15 days of the end of hibernation, or around mid-April, during the short 24 hour period during which the female is fertile (Müller-Using 1957). It usually takes place in a burrow, but occasionally occurs outside.

Gestation lasts 33 to 35 days (Psenner 1957). Birthing of the young occurs in a special birthing chamber within the burrow.  A few days before giving birth, the female no longer tolerates any members of the family group around the burrow (Zelenka 1965, Wieser 1983).

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Alpine marmots emerge from hibernation in early April. Their territory is generally still mostly covered by snow. In the first few days after they emerge, it is common to see them lick the snow and stay motionless for long periods. This phase of inaction may correspond to the full resumption of their normal physiological activities. Subsequently, marmots spend the vast majority of their time running between the different parts of their territory in search of food.

The beginning of the period of activity is marked by intense social activity: territorial defense and agressive interactions with subordinates of the family group and with those outside the group by dominant individuals, mating, gestation and birthing among dominant individuals, and playing   games and interacting among the subordinate one- to two-year-olds, and leaving the home territory by subordinate two-year-olds and older. This intense social activity is coupled with long periods of feeding.

The beginning of summer is marked by an important event because  after 30 days of gestation and 40 days in the den, the weaned marmots emerge for the first time from the burrow. The daily rhythm of activity becomes clearly divided into two parts:  at the beginning and end of a beautiful day, the marmots are essentially active, whereas in the middle of the day, they rest for  a long period  inside the burrow (Perrin 1993, Perrin et al. In 1993 ). Foraging activity is predominant.

In early fall, the time allocated to foraging gradually decreases as the marmots spend most of their time resting and watching their territory. They go into hibernation in October.

The young are born hairless and blind and weigh about 30g. They depend entirely on the warmth of their mother who does not leave them in the beginning, but then carefully covers them with hay during her short absenses to feed. By the second day, they make feeble cries, whose frequency and intensity gradually increases. On the fifth day, a light, dark down covers their skin. At ten days, the young weigh about 90g. From the fifteenth day, the marmots are able to regulate their own body temperature. The female no longer stays regularly with them. Around the twenty-fifth day the incisors come in and the eyes open. The young weigh more then 200g. At thirty days, the coat is fully developed and the young begin to play. The female lies down with them to nurse.

emergence3
emergence1
emergence2

Around the fortieth day, from the end of June to mid July, the young emerge for the first time from the burrow. They weigh between 300 and 350g. Upon emergence, the young gradually feed on plant material.

Marmots reach sexual maturity in two years. At that time, the young marmots begin to disperse in search of a dominant position  that will allow them to reproduce. However, adult height is attained only at the age three.

The alpine marmot appears to live more than 15 years in the wild.

Bibliography

Perrin C (1993) Organisation socio-spatiale et distribution des activités chez la Marmotte Alpine (Marmota marmota Linné 1758). Thèse de doctorat, Université Denis Diderot, Paris.

Perrin C, Allainé D, Le Berre M (1993) Socio-spatial organization and activity distribution of the Alpine Marmot Marmota marmota: Preliminary results. Ethology 93, 21-30.