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[pct-l] Marmots on the PCT

The last marmot I remember seeing was just North of Chinook Pass on Sept 22
near Sourdough Pass. I thought this particular marmot was running as fast
as he could to get away from me when he stopped abruptly in front of a
large blooming lupine plant and proceeded to consume the entire plant,
flowers first, in under a minute.  I watched 2 more lupine plants go the
way of the first. And I thought thruhikers were serious about eating!

I think that the marmots went to ground after that day but am not entirely
certain because the weather changed and I was more often in forest
thereafter. The squirrels, and chipmunks were still busy when I finished
hiking almost a month later.  The difference may be that most of these are
forest dweller.

In June, I remember sitting below Pinchot Pass eating lunch and watching a
marmot crossing a snow patch across the river.  He was flicking his tail
about every ten paces and crossing at a determined but not hurried rate. 
It than occurred to me that such a crossing must carry increased risks
since escape routes are few and visibility of the animal is much increased,
and  also that I had never seen a marmot swim.  Once the snow melts, the
river must be uncrossable. It seemed probable that a territory that is
established in early season, must still be able to sustain the marmot in
later season.  Thus, it would be unlikely that a marmot would establish a
territory on two sides of a river (or snow patch). Certainly some slope
exposures have more plants than their drier or shadier counterparts, some
sides of the rivers are better for forage than others.  Were there marmot
families that lived on the" wrong side of the track", that occupied an
inferior position with less available food or cover? Or were there just
large and small animals, and no continuing familial connections?

The territoriality of marmots was brought soundly home in lower Evolution
basin a short time later.  Kim Parent and Jeff Hayashi and I had been
leapfrogging for  about 8 hours trying to get over Muir Pass and get
through the miserable soft snow lying in Evolution Basin.  None of us even
stopped to put on sun cream (until it was too late, I ended with the worst
and only burn of the trip).  When we finallly reached the last lake and got
through the snow, we all sat down half-exhausted for a much needed lunch. 
I guess we were too tired to do much talking, and were rather vacantly
looking at the marmots and the general vista.  A large dominant animal was
layed out on a nearby ridge. Various other smaller animals were roaming
around here and there ; some coming quite close to us(begging?).  At a
certain moment a smaller marmot went fairly close to the large marmot and
suddenly a chase ensued. The larger marmot was nipping the smaller one
amongst the action that proceeded in several circles and ended fairly close
to us.  At the same moment that I saw the large clumps of hair, Kim
exclaimed "He's got fur hanging from his mouth!".  As the smaller marmot
licked his wounds, the larger one did a nice demonstration of a climbing
technique called "stemming", when he climbed a narrow chimney between a 20
foot wall and a large flake, and proceeded back to his perch on the edge of
the high ledge. Well, we were just all relieved that that was over and went
back to our lunch, etc.

a few minutes later, I heard Kim exclaim "Oh No!!!" in a groaning voice. We
watched as the smaller marmot proceeded resolutely and unhurriedly toward
the perch of the large marmot.  The little guy crawled up a nearly vertical
section and stopped just about 10 feet from his rival; the larger animal
peered over the edge of the ledge but did not move. It stayed that way for
2-3 minutes, then suddenly small marmot shot under the nose of large marmot
and the chase was on! This was a longer chase than the first and it went in
and out, up and down through the rock garden and the two animals stayed
just inches apart the whole time.  At a certain point, both animals froze,
still the same distance apart. It was comical, as if a film that you were
viewing had been stopped. We decided that the animals had probably crossed
an unseen territorial boundary, but it was curious that they stayed in the
"frozen" chase scene for about 30 seconds. Why had the smaller marmot
challenged the larger one for the second time when he knew he was going to
lose?  Had the second encounter been purposely non-violent? Could this be a
form of compassion (political correctness) in action?  That once a
underling is soundly beated(and bitten), such an individual is allowed a
second chase scene to salvage his modest pride.

I also saw a marmot encounter that seemed very tender but without a obvious
outcome.  North of Snoqualmie Pass in a large boulder field, there was the
largest, fattest marmot that I have ever seen sprawled on a large flat rock
below the trail.  He did not run off when I traverse the trail above him. 
After I had passed, I turned around to watch him and noticed a smaller
marmot picking its way down to the reigning monarch's rock.  When she
arrived, she peered over the edge of his rock and then did her best rug
imitation to crawl up and over the rock edge and arrive at his side without
getting any higher than he.  She slowly put her forepaws around his neck in
what looked exactly like a hug.  In this position, she proceeded to
delicately nibble the fur of his neck and nape.  ("Sweetie, are we dining
out tonight").  After a couple minutes of nibbling, she slowly withdrew her
forepaws and went as she had come; the larger animal never once changing
anything to acknowledge that the experience had happened.

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