Friday, May 6, 2016

Yellow-bellied marmot pup...

Yellow-bellied marmot pup...  Yesterday afternoon Debbie and I took a drive up Blacksmith Fork Canyon, toward Ant Flats, for our usual wildlife spotting.  We saw very little on most of the trip, except for the splashing of something large in the creek.  The splashing reminded me of otters playing, though we didn't ever sight the actual cause of the splashing.

But just as we were about to exit the canyon on the way into Hyrum, Debbie spotted the little guy at right on the road.  I'm pretty sure he's a yellow-bellied marmot (aka “rock chuck”), even though they're not normally found this low (we were at about 5,500' altitude, and they're normally above 6,500').  I drove right past it without ever seeing it, even though he was in the middle of the other (uphill) lane.  Yikes!  I backed up next to him, got my four-way flashers on, and jumped out to scoot him off the road.  Shortly after I got out, another car approached, headed uphill, but fortunately saw me and the flashers and proceeded with caution – and smiles when they saw what I was doing.

We had a bit of work getting him off the road, as he was feisty and uninterested in being told what to do.  His front teeth are already about 3/4" long, and sharp as scalpels (which they resemble!).  I didn't dare try to pick him up, as every time I got near him he made angry noises and attacked.  When I tried to scoot him sideways with my (nice, thick, strong) boots, he immediately attacked my boot – and sunk his front teeth so far into my sole that he had trouble removing them!  Finally Debbie came up with the lid of a cardboard box, and I managed to get him into that so that I could take him off to a safer place.  As soon as I lifted him in the box lid, he started making very loud alarm whistles, clearly distressed.

Finally we got him onto a steep slope that led down to the creek, near where I could see what looked like a marmot burrow under a big rock.  In the photo at left, he's on his back because I approached him with my iPhone, and he's preparing to attack me.  This little fellow couldn't have weighed more than 8 ounces or so, yet he was fully prepared to take me on.  If the adults are just as feisty, I don't think I'd care to approach them even if I was wearing armor!

As we left him alone, hoping he would calm down, I could see him right himself and very slowly amble downhill – and away from the road.  Here's hoping he stays off the road!  More photos from the intertubes...

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