Alpine Whistleblowers – On the Playground of the Marmots

OneGate Media
1 x 30 mins

These peculiar and roughly rabbit-sized rodents enjoy great popularity at the Grossglockner in the Austrian Alps. Before the last ice age, marmots used to live in the lowland portions of Tirol, but with the melting of the glaciers they were driven higher up into the mountains – a trend that will continue given the current climate change. Today, they simply feel too warm below 800 meters. In spring, as soon as the temperatures begin to rise, marmots leave their dens after a nearly six-month long hibernation. After eating their share and recovering from this long fast, losing up to a third of their body weight, the most important thing is family planning. And that sometimes involves rather fierce territorial conflicts amongst the males. As long as there is snow covering the meadows, the marmots run a high risk being out – golden eagles are on the look-out for prey. But the marmots have an efficient warning system set up: while the group is feeding, several sentinels are posted around the meadow, warning the others with shrill whistling. At the start of summer, the young ones will appear and need to be extra careful. A bit too distracted while playing and they might end up in the claws of an eagle. But a far bigger danger to the marmots is the highly frequented pass with its traffic. We will follow a marmot family here at the Grossglockner, getting to know their alpine neighbours, too, the chamois, the ibex and the golden eagle.

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