Nature Notes

Volume XXI - 1955

At Home Along Lost Creek
By Mrs. Marcella Stine

We returned to Lost Creek on the 15th day of June, 1955. Almost immediately we found that a pair of yellow-bellied marmots, Marmota f. flaviventris (Audubon and Bachman), had made their home under the old barn. During the summer we watched their comings and goings with a great deal of interest.

On July 9th, I happened to walk by the barn and, much to my surprise, saw two baby marmots. Upon looking around I found two more babies. I hurried home to tell my family of the discovery, and together we went over to watch them. After a few minutes the babies began to appear first came the four, then another, and finally three more. Eight baby marmots! They were very unsteady on their legs and fell all over each other as they played.

They seemed not to know the meaning of fear and paid no attention to us. Suddenly we heard a loud thumping of feet as one parent came rushing through the grass. The babies scurried into their home -- all except one curious little fellow. He apparently decided to have another look. All at once he let out a sharp squeal and backed into his home. I feel reasonably sure that mamma spanked.

After lunch we again went over to watch the babies and to count them once more. 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8 - 9--my daughter Sandy counted 10. Goodness, that just couldn't be -- ten in one family? There were two adults; these must have been the parents. Surely there wouldn't be two mothers and no father? They were all out now, playing like kittens. We counted again. Sure enough, there were ten. We sat about ten feet away, watching them play until the parents came home and shoved them in.

Much of the next three days was spent in taking pictures. I managed to get one which included all but two of the babies. By the end of the week they were venturing a hundred feet and more away from home.

Eight of the ten young marmots in the colony at Lost Creek; one out of sight at the left of the photo.

The adults were doing a fine job of teaching. The youngsters became more timid and would scurry into their home when we approached. The only way of getting pictures after July 17th was to catch them unaware -- which was almost impossible -- or with a telephoto lens. And how I wished that I had such a lens!

The barn stands in a direct line of sight from our cabin. With binoculars we continued to watch the marmots from our door. They still played quite a bit, but they scurried home at the slightest sound.

By the 20th of July, the young went with the adults in search of food. Then we would see them only in the early morning and after 5:00 p.m. During the last week in July there was no sign of either young or adults. I feel that they must have moved elsewhere, due to the many attempts made by visitors to capture them.

On August 14, I was surprised to see one of the young sunning itself behind the barn. I haven't seen him since, although I have gone there frequently. I have seen evidence of many visits in which he returned with grass for his winter bed.

We have received so much pleasure from this marmot family that we hope very much to find another under the old barn next spring.

Editor's note: According to Victor H. Cahalane (1947. Mammals of North America. New York, The Macmillan Co. x, 682 pp.), a marmot litter usually numbers four or five and has extremes of three to eight. A family of ten for a single mother would be very exceptional, although perhaps possible. However, frequent and intensive observation convinced Mrs. Stine that one of the two adults was a male. Furthermore, the presence of two females in an area with no evidence of any male would be rather unexpected, especially in view of the fact that yellow-bellied marmots are quite sociable animals. If one assumes that the two adults observed here were not both females and each mothers of a litter, it is also possible that one was a mother caring for, in addition to her own, the offspring of a family whose mother was killed, while the other was the father. In any event, this observation is an unusual and intriguing one. --- R. M. B.

The Giant Meadow Mouse
By Orville Page, Ranger Naturalist

The meadow mouse is rarely seen in our park, especially in the daytime. On the morning of July 17, 1955, it was my privilege to observe for a few moments two mice which I am reasonably certain were giant meadow mice, Microtus richardsoni arvicoloides (Rhoads).

My destination was Godfrey Glen and Duwee Falls, in the steep-sided Annie Creek Canyon. A short distance above Godfrey Glen, I crossed a very lush meadow area. On the upper slopes of the meadow were some small springs which formed little streams of water about six inches wide and three inches deep. As I approached one of these streams, a splashing commotion was heard. This turned out to be caused by the two giant meadow mice. They seemed frightened by my intrusion and began to swim up the little stream. The mouse in the lead swam along for about eight feet and disappeared into the grass. The second mouse swam a little way and then hid under some grass that drooped over into the stream. Only his head was visible. He apparently felt insecure, and before my camera could be focused, he followed the other mouse on up the stream and disappeared.

Meadow mice are often found around water or damp places (Cahalane, 1947; Wallis, 1947). They are very good swimmers. One meadow mouse in Michigan was observed to swim about eighty feet, part of the way under water, to escape capture.

We have many little animals in the forest that are not seen unless one gets away from the thickly populated places. While out strolling through wooded areas, the lover of nature probably enjoys most those moments when he encounters some forest animal going about his daily living habits. These forest friends will continue to live in their natural surroundings as long as the National Parks maintain natural wilderness areas. The National Parks belong to you, as an American citizen. Only your constant vigilance will keep them in their present primeval setting.

Literature Cited

Cahalane, Victor H. 1947. Mammals of North America. New York, The Macmillan Co. x, 682 pp.

Wallis, Orthello L. 1947. A Study of the Mammals of Crater Lake National Park. Unpublished Master's thesis, Oregon State College, Corvallis. 91 pp.

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