Saturday, July 16, 2011
In June 2010, I traveled to Yellowstone National Park and saw most every animal featured in the park brochure except two exceptions- the trumpeter swan, and the yellow-bellied marmot (Marmota flaviventris). After photographing these curious creatures at Rocky Mountain National Park, I know why. While at Yellowstone, I stayed at low elevations where the elk, bison, and wolves hung out. To see marmots, I needed to be high up on the alpine tundra of the mountains.
While driving up trail ridge road, I stopped at the first major parking area, the overlook of forest canyon. It took me a little while to notice that the area was literally crawling with yellow-bellied marmots. Well acclimated to people, these creatures reminded me of a alpine version of our groundhog. And even more interesting, they loved to lick the rocks that made up the walls of the overlook. One brave marmot even ventured into the walled off area meant to keep the people off the tundra and from falling into the canyon.
I had a blast photographing these fascinating, mountain creatures which live in an area that is covered with snow 7-8 months of the year, 11,500 feet above sea level. Tomorrow, I'll share photos of the amazing liliputian flowers of the alpine tundra that these marmots most likely call food.
During July 2011, I'm writing about my late June trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. I hope you enjoy this brief swing to the western U.S.