Yellow-bellied Marmot with Pups

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Adult Yellow-bellied Marmot on the look outAdult Yellow-bellied Marmot on the look out – Nikon D500, f10, 1/400, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Yesterday I was able to photograph a Yellow-bellied Marmot with pups, these are photos I have wanted to take for years but until now haven’t been able to create. Every time I have had opportunities to photograph marmot pups before the lighting conditions have been absolutely horrible but yesterday the wildlife photo gods were in my favor.

I spotted an adult Yellow-bellied Marmot on top of a lichen covered rock and stopped to photograph it. I loved the setting, the light and how well the marmot stood out from the background.

Adult Yellow-bellied Marmot keeping an eye out for its pupsAdult Yellow-bellied Marmot keeping an eye out for its pups – Nikon D500, f10, 1/500, ISO 250, -0.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Then the adult marmot gave me a different pose on the rock and I adjusted my composition since the marmot was now looking north instead of south. I didn’t know at the time that this marmot was looking out for its pups but I was also keeping an eye out for any movement nearby and that paid off.

Yellow-bellied Marmot pup near a shallow caveYellow-bellied Marmot pup near a shallow cave – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1000, ISO 250, -1.0 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Because I spotted a Yellow-bellied Marmot pup in front of a shallow cave in the rock face and I was over the moon to finally be able to photograph a marmot pup in decent light. The pup was cautious in its movements and sometimes stayed in the shadow of the opening to the cave but when it moved out into the light I was ready.

Yellow-bellied Marmot pup on a rock faceYellow-bellied Marmot pup on a rock face – Nikon D500, f8, 1/640, ISO 250, -0.3 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

Then I located another pup and watched and photographed it as it traversed across a rock face towards its sibling. Unfortunately the lighting wasn’t great in the shadows of the opening and the images I took of them greeting each other were not great because of the wonky exposure.  They looked adorable though sniffing each other and being playful. At least I have the visual memories of them interacting with each other.

Yellow-bellied Marmot pup eating grassYellow-bellied Marmot pup eating grass – Nikon D500, f8, 1/1250, ISO 250, -1.7 EV, Nikkor 500mm VR with 1.4x TC, natural light

And then a third Yellow-bellied Marmot pup showed up too but it stayed mostly hidden from view and I never got a photo of it without something obstructing my view. About that time a Red-tailed Hawk lifted off from a nearby juniper and I heard the marmots whistle and disappear. One of the names people have given Yellow-bellied Marmots is “Whistle Pig” because of they whistle when they are alarmed or when there is a predator nearby.

One of the first two pups showed itself near the entrance to the shallow cave again and started eating some of the grasses growing in between the rocks.

I was delighted to spend time with this family of Yellow-bellied Marmots yesterday and maybe, just maybe I will see and photograph them again soon.

Life is good.


Please note that all of these images were taken from within the confines of a vehicle using it as a mobile blind and from a long distance. I would never approach the Yellow-bellied Marmots closely on foot, especially when they have young because it goes against my personal wildlife ethics. They need space and I give that to them, they deserve it.


  1. Pepe Forte May 7, 2017 at 12:20 am

    Love the contrasts and colors and, of course, the amazing detail. Great work as always. Thanks Mia.

  2. Elephants Child May 6, 2017 at 1:59 pm

    Beautiful things – and I loved the way that the colours of the lichen echoed the colours in their coats.

  3. April Olson May 6, 2017 at 10:44 am

    Nice to see young. Beautiful photos. Reading about marmots it says they often live in colonies, but other than Yellowstone I have not noticed they live in large groups other than parents and a few offspring.

  4. Jerry Ellison May 6, 2017 at 9:49 am

    Great shots Mia…of a seldom seen creature…love it!

  5. Bob mcpherson May 6, 2017 at 6:38 am

    Beautiful photos,Mia.

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