Marmots are a kind of ground-dwelling squirrel that fall in the category of rodents. They’re fascinating to look at and live under the ground in burrows they’ve dug. There are 14 species of them. Yellow-bellied, Alpine, Himalayan, Siberian, long-tailed and woodchuck marmots are the most commonly seen.
Do marmots make good pets? No. These are wild animals and they’ve never been domesticated. They chew a lot and don’t make good companions because of their innate aggression.
In this guide, we’ll learn about marmot’s wildlife behavior, their captive nature and the risks of keeping marmots and a few more things.
Marmot Behavior in Captivity
Marmots have some behavioral features. Let’s see them in points:
They live in rocks
To live free of predators, marmots dig their houses very deep into rocks and cliffs. They can dig puzzle-like spiraling holes that are more than a hundred feet long. Not many animals can find their way out from the puzzling holes that only marmots and groundhogs can create.
They hibernate in winter
All 14 species of marmots will hibernate in winter, in order to conserve their energy. While hibernating, they get their energy from their stored fats. Their hibernating duration isn’t exact. Depending on the species, marmots hibernate more or less. In general, their hibernation duration is 7 to 9 months.
They whistle when they sense a danger
While they sense a danger approaching, they whistle loudly and let other nearby marmots know about their distress. This is, in fact, a major reason why keeping these at home can be really problematic. The level of noise they create is unbearable.
We’ve seen the major behavioral features. Now let’s talk about their territorial life, communication and breeding.
Marmots live in single-father families. There will be several females in a marmot’s harem and their children in a family. The males are very territorial and won’t allow other males in their area.
A marmot will show its territory by marking it with its smell. Thus, other male marmots will know that they shouldn’t be near.
While marmots belong to the squirrel family, they don’t build nests in trees like squirrels do. They will spend most of their lives inside burrows, hibernating and going out while finding food. These animals breed once per year and females give birth to up to 5 babies at a time. They usually breed once the hibernation is over.
Marmots aren’t kept as pets, but they are kept in zoos. Living in captivity means these animals don’t get to do much movement as they would in the wild. So, it’s important to keep their diet in check.
Marmots in zoos are fed a low-calorie, plant-based diet. They are also given vitamins and minerals their body requires. As chewing is vital for their teeth’s growth, they’re also given chewing items/toys in the zoo.
So, are marmots good pets? No, right? You now understand why. No matter where you keep a marmot, it will show its wild nature by any means. Marmot pet behavior isn’t a practical thing.
Risks of Keeping Marmots as Pets
We’ve talked about why marmots need to live in the wild. Now let’s see why keeping marmots as pets can be risky.
They’re very social animals. While they live most of their lives hibernating, they spend the other time raising their kids, finding food and socializing. If you take a marmot as a pet, it’ll miss all of these things. And this’ll have a bad impact on the marmot’s mental and physical well-being.
In most of the world, marmots are considered wild animals and, thus, aren’t allowed to be kept as pets. You’ll fall into legal issues if you keep them.
Marmots have very thick fur, so they need to live in a very cold temperatures. Their fur makes their body temperature several degrees higher than it is on the outside. So keeping them at home at normal temperature means just making their deaths easier for them.
So, think of these problems. It wouldn’t seem ethical and practical to keep them as pets. Try to contact animal welfare organizations to know about the possible risks with wild animal species.
Besides, whatever marmot species you may choose, bringing an animal home means pet ownership. And pet ownership can’t go well with a wild animal.
Alternative Ways to Enjoy Marmots
It’s best if you can visit them in the wild. They live in Asia, Mexico, European-alps and the Himalayas and some other mountainous areas. Viewing these wild animals in the place they feel most comfortable is best for keeping them safe and happy.
Domestication is a process of selectively breeding animals that show good traits. After selectively breeding a species for generations after generations, a domestic variant of it is achieved.
Animals are usually domesticated for three main reasons:
- Farmed for food (chickens, cows, goats, etc.)
- Bred for companionship (parrots, cats, dogs, etc.)
- Bred for working (horses, donkeys, etc.)
While selecting brood for selective breeding, there are few traits that an animal should have while it’s chosen for the domestication process. These are:
- They should adapt to different weather types
- They should be hardy
- They should be fed on a range of diets
- They breed more and grow quickly
These characteristics aren’t all the traits required for all animals. However, these are common with the selective breeding of almost any animal.
Why marmots are not suitable for domestication
Marmots have never been domesticated, at least not in a serious way yet. These days people interact with wild marmots a lot, so the animals feel quite safe around humans. But this doesn’t mean they’re domestic now or good to be a pet.
They have constantly growing teeth. As the teeth grow longer, the marmots must chew anything to help those teeth push into their gums deeply. If you don’t give a marmot chewing toys, it’ll chew anything it finds. Your clothes, papers, furniture and everything it can chew will likely get damaged.
And this behavior can’t be changed. Thus, it’s impossible to keep a pet marmot in control.
Alternative pet options instead of Marmots
If you’re looking for other exotic animals to keep as pets, you may choose from the following:
- Rabbits: they are easy to feed and handle. They breed a lot too. Keeping them would be very interesting if you plan to sell them or give them to others as gifts.
- Parrots: Parrots are easy to tame and train. If well cared for, a pet parrot can have a lifetime bond with you. There are more than 350 breeds of parrots. While all of them aren’t kept as pets, most of them have been kept in captivity with good results.
- Cats: some rare cat breeds are not only hard to find but also very expensive. Cats are one of the best pets for sure. If you live in an apartment and don’t want to bring in a dog, go for a cat.
Here are a few frequently asked questions related to keeping marmots as pets.
Q: Are there any countries or states where keeping marmots as pets is legal?
Yes. If you are in the U.S. and reside in any of these states: North Carolina, Alabama, Nevada, and Wisconsin, you can keep marmots legally. Otherwise, you’ll have to avoid keeping them as pets as they’re considered wild animals and there are legal regulations.
If you live in a different country, you can check your wildlife laws. You’ll know whether these can be kept or not from there.
Q: Can marmots be trained like other pets?
No. Marmots aren’t easy to train like other pets and there are rare cases of training them.
However, in the late 18th century, alpine marmots were trained to dance while an instrument was being played. The Savoy people used to train these marmots regularly at that time.
Q: What should I do if I find an injured or orphaned marmot?
Call an animal helpline number in your area or contact a vet as soon as possible. Marmots are very fickle animals; unless the one you found is very injured, it’ll hide from you fast. So it’s better if you don’t go near it as it might attack you.
Now, you should have some ideas about how and where marmots live and why they shouldn’t be kept as pets. Always remember that animal behavior can’t be changed in a day. Unless a specific animal species hasn’t been domesticated for a long time, it’s better to leave them be.
Let them stay where they belong and do not bring them home. And wild animals are risky to keep. They’ll be friendly with one person and attack another. Letting children near marmots is also dangerous because they can bite hard with their long teeth.
Overall, let the wild animal live in nature; that’s where they belong.