Standing high in the mountains on the Northeastern side of the Olympic Peninsula, tethering on a narrow ledge that marks the border of the Olympic National Park, our backpacking party was taking in quite a sight. For miles, the Olympic Mountains in their rugged glory lay before us like a bumpy bison rug, dyed a deep, lush green. The sight and elevation was breathtaking and with the only noise the wind in our ears, it was a moment to meditate on life, the universe and everything. I was maybe 3 minutes from reaching an understanding on why Pluto isn’t a planet, but is a non-speaking, leash and collared dog in a land of other dogs that wear clothes and act human, when a whistle pierced the air. It was the unmistakable sound of a marmot, and I told the rest of the group, visiting from the East Coast, that it was just an Olympic Marmot.
“What the hell is a marmot?” I was asked, and for the next few miles of amazing views I tried to describe what a marmot was. I would have pointed it out, saving myself precious words, but none were visible, despite being so vocal. The best I could come up with, despite my focused efforts were that it was somewhere between a Rat and a R.O.U.S. from The Princess Bride. I am not sure, if put on the spot that I could do much better, but luckily I have time to flush this out once and for all.
The Olympic Peninsula Marmot is the official mascot of the Olympic National Park, despite the fact that the elk were the main reason the park was created in the first place. The marmot is usually around the size of a house cat, but much, much more chubby. In fact the marmot is chubby because it is only active for 4 months a year!
Other fun facts to amaze friends and cashiers:
– Olympic Marmots take 3 years to mature
– Adults can weigh 15 pounds
– Brown in color, tan or yellow in the spring, almost black when they hibernate.
– Live at over 4,000 feet
– Olympic Marmots eat flowering plants like lupine and glacier lilies, but when times are tough, they gnaw on trees.
– The can double their weight in the summer months and hibernate for 8.
– They will whistle back if you whistle the hit tune of Hall and Oates “Man-Eater” (Seriously, try it!)
– They are an Endemic Species on the Olympic Peninsula, meaning they are only found here!
Currently, there are 63 known habitat clusters around the Olympic Peninsula, and despite the fact that the National Park has years monitoring activities for volunteers and locals, the knowledge of these guys is pretty low. Statistically speaking, of the 63 known areas, only 46 areas were explore, and of those areas, only 28 were completely researched. In fact, the National Park service just released a report claiming they need to do a better job with hyping up the Olympic Marmot. Coincidently, we have an opportunity to help do such a thing with the team at Exotic Hikes, which we will be announcing shortly. Until then, get to know the most adorable guy on the Olympic Peninsula, and the newest must have edition to your backpack: Oliver the Olympic Peninsula Marmot (Link: http://olivermarmot.tumblr.com/post/45140263795/still-too-cold-to-take-a-dip-at-lake-cushman)
Come see a Marmot with us!
Exotic Hikes: @Exotichikes on Twitter
Love Marmots?? Check this out! Seriously it is adorable….http://olivermarmot.tumblr.com/post/45140263795/still-too-cold-to-take-a-dip-at-lake-cushman
For a less fun version of this blog: http://www.nps.gov/olym/naturescience/olympic-marmot.htm
For a reason to not send your kid to UCLA to research Marmots: http://www.marmotburrow.ucla.edu/olympic.html
Serious Data from 2012 on the Olympic Peninsula Marmot: http://www.nps.gov/olym/naturescience/2012-marmot-monitoring-results.htm
Some images from: http://www.pbase.com/image/40398778