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New researches about marmots

from EVU News, Issue 1, 1996


"Schlafen wie ein Murmeltier" (sleeping like a marmot) a saying often used in German to indicate that someone is in a long and deep sleep.

Marmots (Marmota marmota, up to 50cm, 5kg, 2-5 young ones after 5 weeks pregnancy) are rodents living high up in the Alps eating herbs, grass and roots. On an excursion you can hear their yelling, warning whistle or observe them playing in the sun.

Until now they were said to sleep about seven months in their burrows. In fact they pass 90% of their life under the earth.

Recent studies have shown now that marmots which retire in their burrows at the end of September and show up only in April, do not sleep the whole time as believed but wake up regularly in groups every two or three weeks to warm up and to 'go to the toilet'. It was also thought that they ate from the blades of grass and the hay which they gathered in the tunnels during summertime. It shows now that they live only on the reserve of fat which they put on eating about 1,5kg of grass and thus accumulating 25gr of fat a day in the warm season.

As many other animals the marmots have been nearly exterminated by man. People believed in the healing effect of the marmot's fat!

Sigrid De Leo

See the picture on the index page of this EVU News