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On guard in the Maritime Alps

Focus on: Marmots

A marmot intent on chewing its meal.

Marmots (Marmota marmota) are easy to see in all the subalpine meadows and sunny scree slopes in the Park, from the middle of April to the middle of October. The winter months are spent in hibernation in collective burrows, formed of a network of tunnels and underground rooms lined with dry grass.

There are some physiological adaptations which allow them to alter their base functions: their body temperature drops from 38°C to 5- 8°C, their heart rate to 4-5 beats per minute and their breathing to 2-3 breaths per minute.

In spring, even in there is still some snow, you can see thin marmots coming out of their burrows. They eat heartily in order to build up a new reserve of fat to see them through the next winter.

As they are the eagles' favourite prey, and other predators such as foxes are fond of them too, marmots are always on the lookout, ready to stand up on their back legs to sound the alarm: a strong sharp whistle if the danger is coming from the air, two or more whistles if the risk is on the ground. Once they've done their duty these wary guards run to take cover in their respective burrows.

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