GLENDALE, Ariz. (KDVR) — A Colorado marmot hitched a 600-mile ride from Crested Butte to the Phoenix metro area.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department said back in June, a Glendale, Arizona, resident “spotted an animal she’d never seen before” and contacted them. The resident said the creature was running around a parking lot and jumping into vehicles.
It turned out to be a yellow-bellied marmot named “Fork.”
Fork, a female, had an ear tag and turned out to be part of a 60-year marmot study conducted by the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
“It’s not unusual for marmots to hitch rides and find themselves in Crested Butte or Gunnison,” said Dan Blumstein, a UCLA ecology and evolutionary biology professor who leads the marmot study at RMBL. “The idea that a marmot could get under a car and somehow travel about 10 hours to the Phoenix area is just extraordinary.”
Marmots are adapted to cold climates, so she might not have survived the extreme summer heat of the Phoenix Valley, Arizona wildlife officials said.
Colorado researchers also wanted to get her back, as they said females are important to their long-term study. Female marmots are more social and are thus less likely to disperse from their relative marmots.
Arizona wildlife officials captured her and transported her back to Colorado.
All involved called the operation a success. She was released and reunited with her brother, “Spoon.”
“She’s back with her brothers. It’ll be really interesting to see if she sticks around or if she disperses, and it’ll be interesting to see if she grows up and acts as an aunt to her many many cousins and siblings,” Blumstein said.
Watch the full video from the Arizona Game and Fish Department: