Marmots expanding into Catalan Pre-Pyrenees

File:Marmotte des Pyrénées.jpg

The Alpine Marmot is successfully spreading into the Catalan Pre-Pyrenees, and there may now be as many as 10,000 individuals in the region.

Marmots became extinct in the Pyrenees at the end of the last ice age, but were introduced by hunters into the French Pyrenees in 1948 in an attempt to reduce the pressure of predation on chamois by golden eagles. By the 1960s, they had crossed the frontier (first appearing in 1962-1964 in the valley of Otal, Huesca), and have since flourished on the warmer side of the range. According to marmot expert Bernat Claramunt, their arrival appears to have had some negative consequences on ecologies:

“As an herbivore that lives in colonies, its impact on the flora of the alpine and subalpine fields can be significant. In addition, it can be a key competitor for other herbivores that it coexists with, like the ptarmigan”

But they have also provided food for birds of prey who have found them “easy to capture”. Studies on the remains of golden eagles’  nests indicate that they frequently feast on marmots. Foxes also prey on them.

Again Bernat Claramunt notes:

“Very probably, the adaptive flexibility of marmots, the best climatic conditions on the southern slope of the range, and the lower density of significant predators, explain the rapid expansion of the species”. More here

They are likely to continue to expand in the coming decades much to the delight of hikers and birds of prey.

Marmots became extinct in the Pyrenees during the last ice age, but were introduced by hunters into the French Pyrenees in 1948 in an attempt to reduce the pressure of predation on chamois by golden eagles. By the late 1960s, they had crossed the frontier, and have since flourished on the warmer side of the range. Unlike other introductions, the arrival of marmots appears to have had no negative consequences on ecologies. They are likely to continue to expand in the coming decades much to the delight of hikers and birds of prey

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