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Marmota caligata (Eschscholtz 1829)
Hoary Marmot; Hoary Marmot; Whistler Marmot; Whistling Marmot
Family: Sciuridae


© David Shackleton     (Photo ID #109675)


Distribution of Marmota caligata in British Columbia.
Source: Map courtesy of David Nagorsen


The hoary marmot is our largest species of marmot or ground squirrel (Nagorsen 2005). It is about the size of a beaver, with an average weight of around 4.6 kg , and an average length of 24 inches (61cm) (Nagorsen 2005, University of Alaska 2010). It has a distinctive black and white coat (Nagorsen 2005). Fur colour varies among our five subspecies, however, Nagorsen describes the species generally as: “...the dorsal coat is usually white to grey with a dark wash in the pale shoulder regions, giving it a mantled appearance. It has a white nose and black or blackish-brown cap on the head that extends to the side of the face, and a white patch between the eyes on the snout...the short bushy tail varies from blackish-brown to pale brown.” Melanistic individuals are sometimes found in northern populations (Nagorsen 2005). Like other marmots, Hoary Marmots have thick slightly curved claws which are used for digging.

Nagorsen (2005) reports the range of this species as “across the western Cordillera from Alaska, the Yukon Territory and the extreme western Northwest Territories to Washington, northern Idaho and northern Montana." In British Columbia, this species is found at higher elevations throughout most of the province, except in lowland boreal forests in the northeast and low elevation grasslands in the dry interior (Nagorsen 2005). Five subspecies of the Hoary Marmot are recognized in BC, according to Nagorsen (2005). These are:

Marmota caligata caligata (Eschscholtz) (found in the northern and central interior of the province as far south as Barkerville and Mount Robson

Marmota caligata cascadensis Howell (found on the coast from from the Cascade range of Washington north to Garibaldi Provincial Park)

Marmota caligata okanagana (King) (found in BC in the Monashee, Selkirk, Purcell and Rocky Mountains in southeastern BC

Marmota caligata oxytona Hollister (northastern BC, Rocky Mountains)

Marmota caligata raceyi Anderson (found only in BC, where in occurs the mountains in the Chilcotin Plateau and in the Coast Mountains north to Kitimat).

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS5YellowNot Listed

BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.

Species References

Blumstein, Daniel. 1995-2002. The Marmot Burrow. University of California. Available online.

Kyle, C. J., T. J. Karels, C. S. Davis, S. Mebs, B. Clark, C. Strobeck and D. S. Hik. 2007. Social structure and facultative mating systems of hoary marmots (Marmota caligata). Molecular Ecology 16 (6): 1245-1255.

Nagorsen 2005. Rodents and Lagomorphs of British Columbia. Royal BC Museum Handbook. Victoria.

New World Encyclopedia. 2008. Marmot Information Page. Available Online.

University of Alaska. 2010. Info Spot: Hoary Marmot. Available online.