( Originally Published 1936 )
The Marmots are allied to the Squirrels, but are more heavily built, the tail is shorter, and none of the family have cheek pouches. They are abundant in the Northern Hemisphere, inhabiting both high mountains and open plains. Their fore-feet are short and powerful and armed with strong claws, the fur is rather stiff, reddish-brown in colour, shading to black on the back and tail. They live in large colonies in the ground, where they make long burrows that communicate with one another, feed on worms and insects, as well as on vegetable substances, and store up provisions for future use.
Marmot (Arctomys marmotta)
The common Marmot is found in small colonies near the snow-line on all the high mountains of Northern and Central Europe, is about the size of a rabbit, and greyish-brown in colour. See Plate i6, Fig. 75. Marmots feed on nuts and seeds, and during the coldest time of the year they hibernate, several sleeping together in their deep burrows, or warrens, lined with hay. They are said to remain in a state of complete torpor for seven months, during which time the action of heart and lungs is almost suspended. While strolling about in search of food, they generally post a sentinel who, if any danger threatens, gives the alarm by a shrill whistle, when they quickly retreat to their burrows. The Marmot is eaten in some countries, but authorities differ as to whether the meat is palatable.
Woodchuck (Arctomys monax)
The Woodchuck is one of the best known rodents of this country and much resembles the European Marmot in form and habits, living in burrows in the ground, and feeding upon nuts and various fruits. In the fall of the year it grows very fat, and is then excellent eating, the fat having a peculiar but rather delightful odour, somewhat like that of muskmelon. When wounded, or attacked, the Woodchuck shows great courage, and dogs, unless trained to encounters with them, are often whipped by these fierce little animals. In some parts of the country it is called the Ground-hog, and it is the animal about which has long been told the curious legend that if he sees his shadow when first emerging from his burrow, the second day of February (Candlemas Day), he promptly retires for another six weeks, during which time the cold weather will continue.
Sisel (Spermophilus citillus)
This is a European rodent, much resembling the marmot in its habits, but " more " omnivorous, if the expression may be used, feeding on eggs, small birds, mice, and so on, as well as on vegetable substances. It measures nearly a foot in length, including the short tail, and is yellowish-brown on the upper part, indistinctly waved with darker colour, the under-surface of the body being dull yellow. The ears are small and rounded, the cheek-pouches (absent or rudimentary in the true marmot) are well developed, and the tail is very short. See Plate 15, Fig. 72. The burrows of this species are six feet in length, and lead to the sleeping-chamber, where the animals hibernate. Before going into winter retirement, however, they close up the old burrow, and prepare a new one leading almost to the surface of the ground, which is opened when they are ready to quit their winter quarters in the spring.