Marmots are steppe animals.
In the Alps marmots live in the alpine meadows and subalpine grassland. In this rather open terrain they are naturally dependent on their burrows to protect them from foes. The moment they sense danger they disappear like lightning into their burrows or into one of their 1 to 2m long flight tunnels. Often, different burrows are used for summer and winter.
Beside the Alpine marmot, there are 12 other species of marmot in the world, all of whom, with one exception, live in grassy, treeless steppe habitats.
Marmot burrows are up to 20m long and can be as much as 3m deep underground.
Social contact plays a central role in the life of a marmot.
Scent glands in their cheeks permit marmots to recognise one another. Using his scent glands, a male marmot marks the boundaries of his territory.
Marmots live in families. Individuals that do not belong to the family are chased away.
Families are generally made up of one adult male and one female and several young. Females do not carry young every year, so there is not a new generation in a family every year.
Young marmots have to learn how to watch out for their foes. By the age of 3 the young marmots must leave the burrow.
Marmot hibernation is a natural marvel.
Studies carried out in Avers (Graubünden) have shown that marmots don’t just eat grass, but concentrate on certain plants, in particular Alpine clover. Food content - above all the amount of unsaturated fats - is essential to the building up of fat reserves for the winter.
At the end of September the marmot retires to a well-lined winter burrow, where it goes into hibernation. During this time all bodily functions slow down considerably. About every 2 weeks its body temperature rises from 3 to 6 degrees to 38 degrees, remaining at this temperature for about 2 days. An explanation for this rise in temperature is the subject of research. It is thought that this process prevents the nerve cells dying through inactivity.
During hibernation marmots neither eat nor drink.