Species: 15 species altogether (marmota baibacina, marmota bobak, marmota kastschenkoi, marmota broweri, marmota caligata, marmota camtschatica, marmota caudate, marmota flaviventris, marmota himalayana, marmota marmot, marmota menzbieri, marmota monax, marmota sibirica, marmota Olympus, marmota vancouverensis).
Marmots can be found in Europe, Asia and North America. Some species live in mountains, such as the Alps, the Pyrenees, the Rocky Mountains, Sierra Nevada etc. Other species prefer grassland and can be seen in steppes both in North America and Eurasia.
Back in the 19th century marmots were very common in steppes and woodlands of Russia. But agricultural development and hunting have drastically decreased the population of these animals in the wild. It is a protected species that now occurs in separate colonies in Ukraine, in the south of Voronezh and Ulyanovsk regions. It can also be found in steppes of northern Kazakhstan, in the Altai and Tien Shan.
Marmots are distant relatives of squirrels. They have thick and clumsy bodies, short and strong legs, big flattened head and a short neck. They have long claws on their front legs which they use for digging burrows. Females have 6 pairs of mammary glands on the belly.
In the wild marmots walk or gallop. They can run with the speed of 15 km per hour.The steppe species are yellow with black pattern on the back; the cheeks and the sides are light and the belly and legs are bright yellow. The tail has a dark brown tip. After the period of hibernation marmots come out of their burrows with rough and light coat. They shed once a year, from May to August. The coat on the back changes first, followed by the fur on the sides, belly and head. The legs and the tail shed last.
Marmots’ owners have to remember that these animals are extremely curious. When they are let out of the cage, they get into every corner and crack, climb sofas and chew everything they see. Once the marmot has chosen its favorite location in your home, put there things that can be torn and chewed. They love fumbling around in sofas and beds, bury themselves in blankets imitating burrows. They need at least two walks every day, one hour long each. When the time of hibernation approaches, marmots gain weight and become flaccid; they sleep longer and longer.
A lot of people keep marmots in their homes. But before you acquire a marmot, you should think everything over. The main problem for the owners is the necessity to organize hibernation, and it requires a lot of time and effort. Under improper care marmots can injure themselves, damage your things or fail to come out of hibernation.
You should keep your marmot in a metal cage; plastic will be chewed up immediately. They cannot be kept in boxes or glass tanks. The cage has to be at least 66 cm long, 56 cm wide, 64 cm high. You will have to put a solid lock on the cage door, otherwise the marmot will be able to open the door and escape. Also you will have to put a special tray in the cage for your pet to eliminate. The cage has to contain cloths or a special house for rodents, so that your pet feels comfortable (they live in burrows and have strong need for a shelter). You mustn’t put the cage near a heater or under direct sunlight, or under air conditioning. If your flat is not warm, don’t put the cage on the floor so that your pet doesn’t get a cold. You can put food bowls in the cage only for feeding and then take them away. The water however has to be in the cage at all times.
If you keep a marmot at home, it will need regular walks in the flat, they are very important for the animal’s well-being. But you will have to watch it constantly during these walks, otherwise they will most probably end tragically. Before you leave the marmot out of the cage, you should take away all the electrical wires and cables, close the sockets, take away all chemicals and plants. You won’t need to wash your marmot; they are afraid of water, and all bathing results in horrible fights with a squeaking and biting rodent. They groom their coat themselves, so you can just brush them occasionally and wipe with baby wipes.
Hibernation in winter is a physiological need for marmots, whether they live in the wild or in captivity. In the wild marmots hibernate in their burrows, on the bedding of dry leaves and grass. In order to create environment close to natural, you will need non-heated premises protected against the wind and rainfall. An ideal option is a glazed balcony. Also your marmot will need a house where it will hibernate. You can use a wooden box sized 75x50x50 with a cover. Inside it should be covered with metal mesh and have a solid lock. Then it must be filled with hay or wood cuttings up to the top because the marmot will tamp it down. During the whole period of hibernation the temperature in the house should be around 3-4 degrees. Some time before the hibernation (the end of September or the beginning of October) the animal will get sluggish and lose appetite. The beginning of hibernation coincides with the end of the shedding process. In captivity the owner has to stop feeding the marmot and giving water to it about 2-3 weeks before the supposed beginning of the hibernation; then you should cover the cage with heavy fabric and take it to the balcony for a couple of hours every day, so that the animal feels it is time to hibernate. If a potential owner cannot organize hibernation for the marmot for some reason, it is best not to acquire it because without hibernation the rodent will get very ill and can die.
Marmots have to be fed twice a day, in the morning and in the evening. In the wild they eat all day long with small breaks, so you cannot overfeed them. They are herbivore, and in the wild they live on grass, flowers, shoots and leaves. You can include in their menu crackers. They like apples, pears, carrots, beetroot, cucumbers, bell pepper, bananas, lettuce, parsley, dill, persimmon etc. Before giving to the marmot any plant feed, you should wash it carefully and see to that it has no rot or mold. It is dangerous to feed marmots with exotic fruit, such as mangoes, pineapples, avocado etc.
Marmots can eat compound feed that contains pellets made of compact grass or other common feed for rodents. Most marmots are picky, so you should try to offer them varied menu. In spring and summer you can feed your pet with fresh grass (it has to be washed carefully and dried). You mustn’t ever give to your marmot meat, fish, poultry – any animal feed, as well as fried, spicy, salty, prickled and sweet food. Milk and dairy products are forbidden.
In the wild marmots get liquid from juicy plants; after hibernation they drink a lot and eat snow. You should put in the cage a water bottle with clean and fresh water (has to be changed daily). As a treat you can give your marmot fruit juice. After hibernation marmots require minerals and vitamins. You can use special complexes for rodents and mineral blocks.
Marmots require hibernation. They are picky and squeamish.
Marmots are quite hardy and don’t often get ill. They are not rabies carriers. Sometimes diseases occur as a result of improper diet. Lack of protein can result in serious metabolism disorders. Lack of greens in the menu leads to vitamin deficiency. In this case marmots don’t shed completely or they can get bald. Their incisors grow during their whole lifetime, so they have to grind. In order to do that, put in the cage special mineral blocks and branches of birch, apple tree or willow. You can give to marmots branches of any fruit trees, as well as asp, maple, linden, mountain ash.