Animal #43 — Yellow-bellied Marmot

marmota flaviventris

Wednesday, May 1, 2002 — 11:32 am

El Paso County, Colorado — Pike’s Peak

Michael Scarbrough and I wanted to drive up Pike’s Peak on Saturday but arrived too late in the day. But as we thought over our schedule for the week, we decided we’d have enough time on Wednesday between the first session and 5:05 when our plane took off.

We paid our $10 each and headed up the toll road in our rented Hyundai Elantra. Once we got above timberline, the drive was very disconcerting. When we were headed for a switchback, all we could see ahead was 15 feet of road and then … nothing. Just sky. It was as if we were approaching the end of the world.

We were at about 12,000 feet, perhaps two miles from the top when I saw the marmot. I knew immediately what it was. It was sniffing around on the gravel road along a bank of ice on a slope of rocks and tundra grass. Michael stopped the car right next to it and opened the window. He hung out the window to take a picture. Just before he pushed the button, the marmot sat upright and looked at him. Michael took his picture, then took my camera from me and took another. The marmot decided he’d had enough. He dropped down to all fours and ran off over the ice and up the slope out of sight.

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