Tatra marmots, a subspecies of the Alpine marmot (Marmota marmota) and one of the most popular animals in the Tatra mountains, spend the entire winter sleeping in a den. “In October, the animals go to their dens to hibernate,” Jozef Hybler, a zoologist with the State Forests of the Tatra National Reserve told the SITA newswire, adding that until then the marmots eat as much food as possible so their fat reserves are sufficient to survive without eating until May. But the zoologist said some young marmots can have trouble if they do not manage to build enough body fat or fail to find a proper place to spend winter.
“It happens sometimes that an avalanche removes the snow cover and the soil freezes down to deeper depths and some marmots freeze to death or they do not wake up in the spring,” Hybler said. He noted that marmots are sound winter sleepers with a minimum metabolism as their pulse slows and their body temperature drops to only four degrees Celsius. But he said sometimes there are exceptions and people do see a marmot in winter, noting that “we had a case in Lomnické sedlo where a skier hit a marmot with his ski and we do not have an explanation for why this marmot had woken up” adding that it might have been sick.
Marmots are most vulnerable right after they begin to wake up from their winter hibernation and that they are still weakened and clumsy until at least May and are often easy prey for other animals, the zoologist said.
7. Feb 2011 at 0:00 | Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská