Throughout the Pyrenees you’ll hear the high pitched alarm call of the marmot and are sure to see them when here. A member of the rodent family, the marmot is a sociable character living in groups of around fifteen.
They live in a network of burrows in fields and high grassy / rocky pastures and hillsides. Typically the entrance to their burrow will have been dug under a rock with the hope that predators struggle to enlarge the entrance thus keeping the marmot more safe. The marmot hibernates for 6-7 months in their burrows over the winter and emerge late April to May. They feed on grasses, young plants, spiders, insects and worms and during the Summer make a concerted effort to double their weight ready for the following Winter – that’s a lot of eating!
Marmots became extinct in the Pyrenees around the end of the last ice age about twelve thousand years ago. They were reintroduced by French hunters in 1948 from the Alps as a food source for golden eagles because the eagles were taking too many chamois. With a lack of natural predators in the Pyrenees the population has exploded to over 10,000 from an initial release of just 400 – in fact some now question whether there huge numbers are actually causing damage and unbalancing the ecosystem.
Marmots can be seen on many of our walks but the Rincon del Verde in the Valle de Tena and Valle de Otal near Bujaruelo are particularly good spots to find them.