Behavioral responses of Yellow-Bellied Marmots to birds and mammals

  • K.B. Armitage Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Department, The University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS 66045-7534 USA,
Keywords: watching, predators, transients, alarmcalling, intruders, running to burrows, vigilance


The habitat of Yellow-bellied Marmots (Marmota flaviventris) is visited or occupied by a variety of birds and mammals. Species that interact with marmots were divided into three groups: (1) other species of ground-dwelling sciurids, (2) nonpredatory transients, and (3) predators. The rare social interactions between Yellow-bellied Marmots and other ground-dwelling sciurids were chases by marmots. Large birds elicited alarm calls by rapid flight or swooping over marmots. Domestic horses or cattle usually were watched by the marmots and alarm calls usually occurred when the ungulates approached the marmots closely. Marmots responded to foraging mule deer by running to their burrows, by alarm-calling, by immerging, or by watching the deer. Alarm-calling and watching were significantly more likely to occur than immergence. Adult females watched significantly more frequently than young or yearlings and reproductive females watched significantly more often than non-reproductive females. Deer walked toward or followed marmots or moved away when a marmot whistled, stared, or moved toward the deer. Marmots alarm-called when golden eagles soared overhead, but whistled about onethird of the time when red-tailed hawks soared overhead or swooped at marmots. Long-tailed weasels were vigorously chased, but alarm calls were not emitted. Coyote and domestic dog intrusion was greeted with alarm calls or running to burrows without calling. Marmots alarm-called to dogs less frequently. All age-classes of marmots alarm-called. Marmots typically sat or stood and watched the intruders. Experiments with a dog revealed that marmots watch the predator and change locations to keep the predator in view and flee or immerge only when the predator approaches closely. Watching characterizes marmot responses to the presence of large mammals or birds.

How to Cite
Armitage, K. (2003). Behavioral responses of Yellow-Bellied Marmots to birds and mammals. Oecologia Montana, 12(1-2), 15-20. Retrieved from
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