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marmot

marmot, ground-living rodent of the genus Marmota, of the squirrel family, closely related to the ground squirrel, prairie dog, and chipmunk. Marmots are found in Eurasia and North America; the best-known North American marmot is the woodchuck, M. monax, of Canada and the E United States. Marmots inhabit plains or open country in mountainous regions. They live in burrows (some species in large colonies). They hibernate during the winter and mate immediately thereafter. Active during the day, they feed chiefly on grasses and other green plants. Marmots have stout bodies, rounded ears, and powerful digging claws. They can sit upright. They vary in length from 15 to 25 in. (38–64 cm), excluding 5- to 12-in. (16- to 30-cm) bushy tails. The coarse fur, which is usually brown on the upper parts, is often tipped with white. The yellow-bellied marmot, M. flaviventris, is found in W North America from S Canada to New Mexico. The hoary marmot, M. caligata, also called whistler from its shrill warning call, is found in Siberia and from Alaska S to Idaho. A colonial animal, it lives in mountains above the timberline. Largest of the marmots, it is also distinguished by its pale yellow-gray fur and black and white head. The Alpine marmot, M. marmota, lives below the snow level in the Alps. The bobac, M. bobak, is a marmot found in mountains from E Europe through central Asia. It is hunted for its flesh by the Mongols, and its fur is used as imitation marten. Marmots are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Rodentia, family Sciuridae.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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