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The marmot, a typical animal of the Andorran's mountains

marmota andorrana sacando la cabeza detrás de una roca

The fauna and flora of Andorra is very varied. It is enough to walk through some of the valleys and mountains of the Principality to appreciate how each area has a very diverse ecosystem. However, there are some species that can be found in more than a single space and that steal our hearts, such as marmots. These small rodents with a friendly face and chubby body usually give us a cuddly appearance, but we must not forget that they are wild animals and therefore they behave as such.

Marmots are closely related to squirrels as they are from the same family of rodents, the Sciuridae family. However, the similarity seems to end there, as marmots are considered the largest rodents in Europe and, unlike their relatives, are terrestrial in habit.

Physically, they are characterized by a large body and head, in contrast to small ears and legs, as they have adapted to low temperatures and this allows them not to lose heat through the extremities.

marmota rodeada de naturaleza en los bosques de andorra

Their thick fur and body fats make them easily adaptable to the cold, they usually live around 15 years and generally live in families consisting of a couple and their young in burrows that they build themselves. A characteristic feature is that the species found in more open and extensive areas tend to have a lighter coat, but if they live in wooded areas they tend to be darker. It should be noted, however, that these rodents prefer open habitats, where they have a wide field of vision to be able to detect predators early enough to take cover. In fact, it is very common to see them on rocks, from where they take advantage of the height to detect the dangers that could be lurking.

Marmots usually follow a diet of grasses, berries and flowers, although most species also eat insects and eggs if they have the opportunity. They usually weigh about 8 kilograms and reach sexual maturity when they are three years old. They are mammals and the gestation period of their young is about five months. As a general rule, they usually give birth to between four and five young, which must leave their mother's den when they reach adulthood. They also spend considerable time in their burrow during hibernation, which usually lasts about seven months.

marmota sacando la cabeza de entre las rocas en andorra

Two characteristic traits of marmots are their sociability and the wide variety of sounds they use to communicate with each other, especially when they want to warn each other of danger or predators. Beyond basic survival functions, marmots enjoy socializing with each other.

They can be seen grooming each other and rubbing noses in greeting.

Their main enemies are the crow, the owl and the golden eagle. However, they are still very territorial animals. Females rub their cheek secretions on nearby rocks and trees, and can be extremely aggressive if someone invades their territory, especially if they have babies. The same family will hibernate in the same burrow, in the main room known as the den.

marmota andorrana de pie en las rocas de las montañas

This is a species that was on the verge of extinction due to a period of exhaustive hunting for the supposed medicinal properties of its fat. This led to the prohibition of marmot hunting in several areas of Europe, and to several repopulations, including the one in 1948 in which this species was reintroduced to the Pyrenees.

Marmot Day is February 2nd every year, and this is due to a very peculiar story. In the United States, farmers have a tradition of being guided by the behavior of animals to determine the weather to come, when they should plant their seeds, and so on. That's where Phil the marmot comes in, a rodent from Pennsylvania Township that has ended up marking Marmot Day. Every February 2nd, marmot Phil comes out of his burrow. If he does so on a cloudy day, the marmot won't be able to see his shadow so he will definitely come out of his burrow indicating that the hardest part of winter is over and spring is on the way. But if the marmot comes out on a sunny day and can see his shadow, Phil will return to his burrow and winter will last about six more weeks.


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