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More Adorable Rodents of Montana

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Looking at my recent entries, it seems I have developed a preoccupation with rodents. The truth is that I like rodents as well as I like any wildlife. Mostly I just like any wildlife that lets me get real close with my camera.

I'm remembering a Patton Oswalt line. "I like porn. Because I can get porn."

But I do like yellow-bellied marmots, and not just because I can get pictures of them. A marmot is nothing more than a nicely colored woodchuck that lives in a group. And living in groups, yellow-bellied marmots (Marmota flaviventris) are a lot more noticeable than our solitary eastern woodchuck (Marmota monax) is. Eastern woodchucks generally reveal themselves only first thing in spring, when they're ratty and moth-eaten and hungrily vacuuming up clover in tiny median strips, or the rest of the year, when we find them taking dirt naps on highway shoulders. Marmots are also bolder, perhaps because having many eyes watching out makes them feel more secure in revealing themselves. Perhaps they aren't as heavily persecuted in the wild West as woodchucks are back East.

My affection for woodchucks is sincere; I have a number of wonderful woodchuck stories. The people who lived on our Ohio farm well before we bought it used to take in injured and orphaned wildlife. I'm thinking it's something in the water. Anyway, they had a pet woodchuck that loved to play. Its favorite game was to be slid on its back across the kitchen floor, caught, and slid right back, like a hockey puck. You have to love a rodent that likes to do that.

On our way to Yellowstoen, we stopped at Pompey's Tower, a state monument to Lewis and Clark along the Missouri River in Montana.

William Clark's signature, on the rock of a stack called Pompey's Tower. It was named for the toddler son of French-Canadian expedition cook Charbonneau and his Native American wife, Sacajawea. Lewis and Clark took a huge shine to the child, who they nicknamed Pompey, and named this promontory after him. He was the expedition mascot. I would think a toddler would be a bit of a liability on the push into the Northwest Territory, but Sacajawea must've stocked up on disposables and Tupperwares full of Cheerios before they took off. By all accounts Pompey was a happy baby, even though he was probably chewing on a bit of dried bison sinew instead of Pepperidge Farm Flavor Blast Pizza Goldfish.

Wild rock pigeons flapped and moaned from their nests along the flank of Pompey's Tower.

At the park below, we ran into a little colony of yellow bellied marmots.

They had burrows at the base of the huge cottonwoods along the river.

They peeked out and then came out, perhaps to see if we had any food to offer. Note the white brow band--distinctive.

Also distinctive is the pot-bellied profile when the animal sits up to take a look around. Awwww!

At this point, I was jonesing bad for a fix o' Chet Baker, having been away from him for a whole week.
So when a marmot spraddled out in what we call the frogleggin' pose, I melted.

They seemed to know I meant them no harm (or know that I thought they were meltingly adorable) and relaxed visibly after a little while.

At last, a little babeh marmot peeked out from his cottonwood fortress. Melting, complete. Just another bit of fauna I would love to have in Ohio. Magpies and marmots.


We have marmots! Finally a reason for you to come visit Colorado.
People out here sometimes call them "whistlepigs" because of the sound they make.

I can't imagine a better place to live than in the base of a cottonwood tree beside a river. It's nice to see rock pigeons nesting on an actual rock.

Marmots and magpies in Ohio ? Perhaps a trail of Goldfish cracker crumbs and Zick Dough bits leading home from the rockies ?

They are cute. Are these the rodents that whistle?

Marmots are what I want to come back as. 'Specially the kind way up high, with a snow-covered peak to gaze at, much fattitude to attain, and a winter asleep underground with all the pantries and cubbyholes full of food. I used to think "otter," but I'm no swimmer. It would just be embarrassing.

That sittin' up marmot could almost be holding a can of beer.

A slight edit from a Montanan. It's called "Pompey's Pillar", not Tower. Big deal, huh?

Glad you liked Montana. How could you not??

So if I called someone a yellow-bellied marmot, do you think they would take it as a compliment? Maybe after reading this post they would!

I'm a Lincolnshire yellowbelly, and proud of it!

The woodchuck hockey puck story is the best thing I have ever heard. I laughed so hard, I tripped and hurt myself. And yet, I thank you.

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