Hoary Marmot Facts

Hoary marmot facts are about a North American rodent

The hoary marmot (Marmota caligata) is a large and heavily built rodent of North America. Belonging to the family Sciuridae that also includes chipmunks and prairie dogs, the hoary marmot is easily distinguishable from yellow-bellied marmots in terms of physical characteristics. The yellow-bellied species has a yellowish-brown fur, while the hoary marmot is more grizzly and is whitish gray. Besides, hoary marmots inhabit alpine environments, unlike yellow-bellied ones which are found at lower elevations.

Marmots are basically larger-sized ground squirrels. Besides the yellow-bellied marmot species, other close relatives of the hoary marmot are the Vancouver Island and Olympic marmots. Nicknamed as whistlers for their characteristic whistling behavior, the hoary marmot is a popular rodent among hikers of the northwestern mountains of North America. However, this marmot species gets its common name from 'hoary', meaning 'shroud of white fur that covers their back and shoulders'.

Do you find these marmots intriguing? Then go ahead and read on to learn more about these fur-covered marmots! If you like reading about hoary marmots, why not check out some fun and interesting facts about the muskrat and agouti?

Hoary Marmot

Fact File

What do they prey on?


What do they eat?


Average litter size?


How much do they weigh?

8.3-15 lb (3.7-7 kg)

How long are they?

24-32 in (62-82 cm)

How tall are they?


What do they look like?

Silvery-gray and reddish-brown

Skin Type


What are their main threats?

Humans and predatory animals

What is their conservation status?

Least Concern

Where you'll find them

Alpine tundra and rocky talus slopes


North America





Scientific Name

Marmota caligata





Hoary Marmot Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a hoary marmot?

A hoary marmot is a rodent belonging to the family Sciuridae.

What class of animal does a hoary marmot belong to?

Hoary marmots belong to the class of mammals.

How many hoary marmots are there in the world?

There is no data regarding the exact number of hoary marmots in the world. However, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Red List of Threatened Species, the global population of these mammals is stable.

Where does a hoary marmot live?

Hoary marmots live in areas with alpine tundra vegetation and rocky talus slopes. Even though they are mostly found in an alpine habitat with elevations of 8,200 ft (2,500 m) above sea level, the hoary marmot population has been reported in coastal areas as well.

What is a hoary marmot's habitat?

Mostly found in the alpine mountains, their geographical range and habitat extend from Alaska in the north to northwest Canada, Idaho, Washington, and Montana in the south.

In Alaska itself, these marmots are distributed across the Alaska Range, the Alaska peninsula, and the White Mountains. In Canada, their habitat range is limited to the Yukon territory's Ogilvie Mountains. In central Idaho, the marmots' primary habitat is the Salmon River Mountains, and in northwestern Montana, their range includes the Flint Creek, Beaverhead, Rocky, and Cascade Ranges. The coastal population is mostly found in Alaska and British Columbia.

Hoary marmots dig their burrows in the rocky talus slopes and spend a large part of their lives in these burrows, sheltered from predators. The burrow is also the site for winter hibernation as well as breeding.

Who do hoary marmot live with?

The hoary marmot species are highly social animals that live in colonies and even hibernate together in winter. Each colony consists of up to 36 individuals, and the basic colony structure comprises an adult male, one or up to three adult females, a satellite or subordinate male, and several yearlings and two year olds. Within a colony, the subordinate adult male will usually try to steer clear of the dominant one.

Each colony digs several burrows, with the number of burrows going up to 100. Such burrows serve as a site for hibernation and as a shelter against predators. In addition to this communal life in burrows, other forms of interactions seen among these animals include nose-to-nose touching, social grooming, wrestling, and play fighting.

How long does a hoary marmot live?

The average lifespan of hoary marmots ranges between 13 to 15 years.

How do they reproduce?

The breeding season is spring, right after hoary marmots emerge from their winter hibernation burrows. The marmot's reproductive behavior includes sniffing the mate, chasing, and fighting, with the male usually approaching the female mate. Even though females reproduce every alternate year, estrous in reproductive females occurs once a year, after emergence from hibernation.

The average gestation period is of approximately four weeks, and after the gestation period, a litter size of two to five young marmots is born between May and June. The young hoary marmots are weaned at about two weeks after birth, and they come out of their birth den at about three to four weeks of age. Females are involved in giving more parental care than males. Reproductive maturity is reached at about two years of age, and young hoary marmots also become independent by the time they reach this age. Hoary marmots' offsprings are born naked and blind.

What is their conservation status?

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, Marmota caligata (hoary marmot) is of Least Concern with a stable population.

Hoary Marmot Fun Facts

What do hoary marmots look like?

Goary marmots are large and stocky ground squirrels. Their head, shoulders, and almost half their back are covered with thick, silvery-gray fur, and the other half of their back has reddish-brown fur. The fur is mostly grizzled. The long bushy tail and the rump are reddish-brown as well. The eyes are small and round, with a typical white patch of fur between the eyes, around the mouth, and the nose.

Unlike other species of marmots, hoary marmots have black feet with long and curved claws on both the front and rear paws. The forefeet may have white patches. The visible body color of hoary marmots is mostly due to the presence of long guard hairs, beneath which is a soft and dense underfur for providing insulation. The underparts are mostly gray and have scanty hair cover. Males are usually larger in size than females, but other than that, they are quite similar in appearance.

Hoary marmots have a distinctive white patch of fur between their eyes.

How cute are they?

Like most other ground squirrels, hoary marmots with their bushy tail and a white patch between their small beady eyes look absolutely cute and adorable!

How do they communicate?

Besides tooth chattering, whines, and growls, hoary marmots have distinct calls that include low-frequency calls, ascending calls, descending calls, and long calls. Most of these calls are used as alarms, loud and short to alert against potential predators or danger.

Besides the distinct types of calls, these marmots communicate via the use of scent. It could be through defecation or by marking natural objects such as plants and rocks from secretions of the scent glands located on their cheeks. In addition, a visual cue used by hoary marmots is an upward raised tail which is mostly a sign of aggression against their own members.

How big is a hoary marmot?

Hoary marmots have a total body length of 24-32 in (62-82 cm), including the tail. The length of the tail is typically 6.7-9.8 in (17-25 cm). Compared to other marmot species, hoary marmots are almost the same size as the Vancouver marmot but somewhat smaller than the Olympic marmot.

How fast can a hoary marmot run?

Most marmots have a running speed of about 9.8 ft/s (3 m/s).

How much does a hoary marmot weigh?

Hoary marmots weigh between 8.3-15 lb (3.7-7 kg), attaining maximum weight during late summer. It is during the late summer when they have accumulated layers of body fat to sustain their energy needs during the winter hibernation.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male and female hoary marmots do not have any distinct names. They can be called a female hoary marmot and a male hoary marmot.

What would you call a baby hoary marmot?

Baby hoary marmots are called pups.

What do they eat?

Hoary marmots are primarily herbivores, and their food comprises lichen, mosses, roots, berries, flowering plants, and grasses. These marmots exhibit selective foraging behavior, and instead of eating food that is more abundant, they show a preference for certain plants.

Are they dangerous?

Hoary marmots can be quite aggressive towards each other. However, they are not shy around people.  They will go about their business instead of running away at first sight. Otherwise, these marmots are not known to be particularly dangerous towards humans.

Would they make a good pet?

Whether it is a hoary marmot or any other marmot species, owning them as a pet or domestic animal is illegal in the United States. Besides, they are wild animals and their front teeth keep growing. This means they must chew a lot which can lead to the destruction of household property.

Did you know...

A striking feature of the social behavior of hoary marmots is that they prefer to feed in groups in each other's company.

In the northern bit of its range, hoary marmots hibernate from September through April. In the southern part, hibernation extends from October to February.

Currently, there are three recognized subspecies of the hoary marmots. These are the Marmota caligata caligata found in Yukon, Alaska, and northern British Columbia, Marmota caligata okanagana found in the Rockies from Idaho to Montana, and the Marmota caligata cascandensis found in the Cascade Range from British Columbia to Washington.

Known predators of hoary marmots include wolverines, grizzly bears, coyotes, lynxes, and golden eagles.

The hides of hoary marmots were a prized clothing material to the northwestern Native Americans. The hides were also used as currency by the Gitksan and Tlingit tribes.

Why do marmots whistle?

The hoary marmots' whistle is a survival skill used to alert members of the colony about any approaching predators or impending danger.

Do hoary marmots hibernate?

The winter season is the hibernation time for hoary marmots, during which members of a family group hibernate together in their burrows. Hibernation sets in gradually, marked by a reduction in foraging, social activity, and other above-ground activities. Before the winter hibernation, these marmots accumulate a reserve of body fat that helps them to survive during the dormant period. After the winter hibernation period is over, marmots emerge from their burrow systems during the spring.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals, including Staffordshire bull terrier, or Ethiopian wolf.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our California state mammal coloring pages.



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