Rocky Mountain Rodents

I’m not a big fan of rodents, and although we did have a pet chinchilla for a time…..

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…..I really loathe the thought of them scurrying around my house!  However, when they were sighted along the Maroon Pass Trail, it was delightful!

This little guy is known as the long-tailed vole.  They are known to be apprehensive; however, our furry friend seemed totally oblivious to us, scampering down the path, searching for a tasty leaf or mushroom.  An interesting fact about voles are that, in spite of the frigid winters, where the low temperatures are known to hover in the single digits, they do not hibernate.  A mere change in the diet from green leafy to a “granola” consisting of the inner bark of trees and shrubs provides ample energy to thrive along the snowy mountains of Colorado.

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The American Pika is closely related to the rabbit family, although it looks more like a guinea pig.  These adorable herbivores like to be prepared.  Before winter, they begin stocking up by collecting wildflowers and grasses, laying them on rocks in the sun to dry, and then storing this surplus in their dens for the winter.

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Our favorite, and the one most frequently seen while we were there, is definitely the marmot. Actually we heard one before we actually saw one.  Apparently, marmots live in colonies, and one super brave marmot is given the task of “watchman”.  Upon spotting potential danger, the “watchman” will start to whistle.  We heard the whistling for quite a while before we encountered this distant cousin of the squirrel.

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Marmots spend their days eating, and digging elaborate underground mazes.  These make the ideal dens for hibernation.

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And although this dude looks as if he is soaking up some afternoon rays, marmots usually spend that time of day hanging out underground.

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It’s always interesting when we travel to see and learn about the wildlife native to that particular area.  The United States is definitely diverse, a melting pot of not only people, but of geographic areas that support varied forms of life.  It’s a fascinating country we live in, and one of the reasons that I’m proud to be an American!

 

 

 

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