Montana Yellow-bellied Marmot

Yellow-bellied Marmot crossing a dirt trackYellow-bellied Marmot crossing a dirt track – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 300mm, natural light

Yellow-bellied Marmots are the western cousins of Groundhogs but unlike Groundhogs (Woodchucks) they aren’t fabled critters that can predict spring and I am okay with that because spring gets here when it gets here. I did learn why Yellow-bellied Marmots got the nickname “Whistle Pig” when I first came upon the two marmots in this area because one let out a sharp alarm whistle.  This marmot crossed the dirt track to get to the other side where I thought it would disappear into the sagebrush and rocks.

A toothy-grin from a MarmotA toothy-grin from a Marmot – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 300mm, natural light

Yellow-bellied Marmots are also called “Rock Chucks” though it is not because they can chuck rocks, it may be because they like rocky steppes, high meadows and talus slopes or it may come from the fact that they typically dig their burrows near and under rocks to avoid predators such as wolves, coyotes, foxes, dogs and sadly humans too.

The marmot didn’t disappear into the rocks like I thought it would instead it stopped and nibbled on some grass. I didn’t realize until I got back home and viewed this image on my monitor that I had caught the marmot with its mouth open showing its very long teeth.

The yellow belly of a Yellow-bellied MarmotThe yellow belly of a Yellow-bellied Marmot – Nikon D300, f6.3, 1/320, ISO 640, +0.3 EV, Nikkor 200-400mm VR with 1.4x TC at 300mm, natural light

I wish I didn’t have the light colored dirt track on the left side of these frames and that the marmot had continued moving a little further into the grass. I also wish the light had been falling on the front of the marmot instead of behind it but the clouds overhead did help with the exposure for these images.

I wanted to take a short break from the birds I photographed in Montana and present at least one of the mammals I saw there too and I like this Montana Yellow-bellied Marmot.




  1. Brian Gatlin June 16, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Mia, I have always said that if I can be reincarnated, I want to come back as a marmot. Spend my life sprawled in the sun on a rock in the high mountains, and hibernate through the winter. Sounds pretty good. Glad you guys had another good trip to MT!

    • Mia McPherson June 22, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Brian, being reincarnated as a marmot might be fun. They look cuddly but wow, what teeth! We had yet another good trip to Montana since you commented on this post, no moss between our toes 😉

  2. Tammy Karr June 16, 2013 at 5:23 am

    This guy is adorable! The second photo made me laugh:)

    • Mia McPherson June 22, 2013 at 9:49 am

      Tammy, the second image made me laugh too when I first viewed it on my pc monitor! Thanks for commenting.

  3. Prairie Birder June 13, 2013 at 11:20 pm

    Beautiful photos, Mia, he doesn’t seem very impressed!

    • Mia McPherson June 22, 2013 at 9:48 am

      I don’t think he is impressed either Charlotte! Thanks.

  4. M. Firpi June 13, 2013 at 11:08 pm

    Mia, these are such cute animals, I would love to see them. I love their standing pose.

    • Mia McPherson June 22, 2013 at 9:47 am

      Maria, I hope you get to see marmots one day, they are fun mammals to photograph.

  5. eric c11 June 13, 2013 at 10:51 am

    nice attitudes well catched, good serie mia, bravo ☺

  6. Deb June 13, 2013 at 9:16 am

    You not only got the shot of the teeth but the grass in his mouth too, and in the next frame, it looks like he realized it as well. Oh…if only we could see them blush. 🙂

    • Mia McPherson June 22, 2013 at 9:46 am

      Deb, your comment made me giggle, I wonder what a blushing marmot would look like!

  7. Bob Bushell June 13, 2013 at 9:05 am

    Nice one Mia, a lovely animal. And your photograph, it is superb.

    • Mia McPherson June 22, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Thanks Bob, they are lovely animals!

  8. Beverly Everson June 13, 2013 at 8:27 am

    I liked this post!!!

  9. Dick Harlow June 13, 2013 at 4:00 am

    Mia never apologize for shooting mammals or for that matter any natural creature in nature!!
    Love the shots, and thank you for sharing.
    I’ve been a birder for more years than I want to count, but I also try and take images of mammals as often as I can.

    • Mia McPherson June 22, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Thank you Dick, birds are my passion but everything else in the natural world is too. I wish I had 100 more years to follow my passions and nature.

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