The Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayana ) is a marmot species that inhabits alpine grasslands throughout the Himalayas and on the Tibetan Plateau. It is IUCN Red Listed as Least Concern because of its wide range and possibly large population.
Himalayan marmots are about the size of a large housecat. They are closely related to the woodchuck, the Hoary marmot, and the Yellow-bellied marmot. Himalayan marmots have a dark chocolate-brown coat with contrasting yellow patches on their face and chest. They have stout limbs and short tails. Like all marmots, they have five toes on each hind foot and four toes on each forefoot with long concave claws adapted for burrowing.
Himalayan marmots are found in South Asia and in China. In South Asia, they occur throughout the Himalayas of India, Nepal, and Pakistan. In China, these animals have been recorded in Xinjiang, Qinghai, Gansu, Xizang, western Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces. Himalayan marmots inhabit alpine grasslands and deserts, as well as alpine meadows.
Himalayan marmots are social creatures that live in colonies and excavate deep burrows which colony members share during hibernation. Their burrows are between 2 and 10 m (6.6 and 32.8 ft) deep. Where soil conditions are ideal on alluvial terraces, marmot colonies comprise up to 30 families, with up to 10 families living in an area of 1 km (0.62 mi). These marmots are diurnal and are mostly active in the morning and late afternoon. They hibernate for 6-8 months during the coldest times of the year. Females and their dependent offspring spend more time in their burrows during late spring and early summer. Males, however, spend more time outside the burrows, watching for potential predators. Himalayan marmots socialize through greeting behavior that consists of a nose-to-nose, nose-to-mouth, or nose-to-cheek touch. They also like to "play fight" and communicate by whistling or chirping. When they are threatened they produce alarm calls.
Himalayan marmots are herbivores. They eat plants growing on pastures, in particular, the soft and juicy parts of grassy plant species. They may also consume seeds, grains, fruit, and nuts.
Himalayan marmots are mostly monogamous, however, in some species, females may have multiple mates. Breeding takes place in February and March. After one month of gestation, females give birth to litters of 2 to 11 young. Mothers nurse their babies in the burrows within 15 days after birth. Soon after weaning and emerging from the burrow little marmots become independent and are able to forage on their own. Young females in this species become reproductively mature at the age of two years.
In general, there are no major threats to Himalayan marmots. However, in South Asia, these animals are hunted for food and used in ethnomedicinal purposes; they also suffer from domestic predators, and the loss of their habitat.
The IUCN Red List and other sources do not provide the Himalayan marmot total population size, but this animal is common and widespread throughout its known range. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List.
Himalayan marmots are important prey for endangered Snow leopards. As burrowing animals, these marmots may help to increase soil aeration throughout their range. Once abandoned, their burrows most likely provide important habitat for other species of a fossorial or semi-fossorial type.