Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Beware the Giant Marmot


Just when you thought it was 'relatively' safe to hike and scramble up in the high country,  thanks to global warming  a new hazard looms behind every rock and boulder.  Stealthily, summer after longer summer marmota flaviventris packs on the grams and quite likely develops beaver sized incisors for bone gnawing. Up until now keeping one eye open for the big furry things on the ground - bears, grizzly or brown or the odd albino - and the other for the big furry thing in the trees - cougars - was sufficient to avoid danger from wilderness beings. Not to discount the dire consequences of enraging mother moose or deer by strolling too close to their offspring.

Okay, an 11 % gain in mass over 33 years to now average out at 3433 grams or about 7.6 pounds has yet to turn them into ferocious predators, but what happens once all the snow is gone and they no longer have to hibernate. Won't sitting around year long in the sun accelerate the weight gaining process? Now I have never run into marmota flaviventris:  however, I have had many chance encounters with its cousin the marmota caligata who lives further north,  at slightly less altitude and who averages out at three times the size. Let us assume  a four month summer - that means eight months curled up not getting bigger - dramatically changes to a full year running around eating, sunning and procreating non-stop. Once they hit the forty to fifty pound mark with chisel incisors and run around in small herds, will we all be so quick to attempt to entice them into cute posing situations for the camera?

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