To Trap a Marmot

Imagine you’re walking along a path and you encounter an overpass. On one side of the sidewalk, there is a hillside covered with rocks and on the other side there is a small gravel area and then a creek. Like this:

marmot overpass

Sitting in the small gravel area, are two people in camping chairs, facing the rocky slope, eating and reading books.

marmot overpass

Would you think this was strange? Would you have the nerve to say something to these people? Or would you stare straight ahead, hoping they wouldn’t lure you over with a chocolate cupcake?

crazy cupcake lady

What if I told you there was a marmot in those rocks? And these people were trying to trap it, so it could be returned to the mountains where it belonged?

marmot overpass

That wouldn’t seem so crazy, would it?

You better be shaking your head no, because that’s exactly what we did about two years ago….

One day, on my regular walk during lunch (because I am very diligent about my exercise routine, as you all know), I noticed something out of the corner of my eye. There was this creature standing on one of the rocks, up on his hind legs, surveying the area.

yellow bellied marmot

Now, I’m no expert on the genus Marmota, but this was certainly a yellow-bellied marmot, and he was not supposed to be living this close to the Cherry Creek Mall. If he needed a new winter coat that badly, he could stop at the outlets in Silverthorne – much closer to his desired habitat of 6,500 feet or higher.

marmot mountains

I contacted the Division of Wildlife and was essentially told that if I trapped the marmot, they would take him back to the mountains. Um, okay. You’re the Division of Wildlife, and I’m a nurse who works in an office and have had zero training in setting traps, handling a wild animal, and preventing the spread of zoonotic disease, but sure, I’ll give it a go.

Instead of going right to the animal trap store, because that would be silly, I made a few more calls and was finally referred to Jack. Jack was a very busy man. You see it was raccoon season and he had a huge shipment of raccoon feed coming in for all the rescue raccoons residing in his backyard. But, he’d already had calls about this marmot. Yes, my marmot was famous. He’d been tracking the little guy as he made his way down the creek, from one neighborhood to the next.

I convinced my boss to let me go early, because, duh, there was a marmot that needed tending to at the creek, and this took precedence over people with complaints about their healthcare.

Jack set up his trap and we watched and waited, and watched and waited. An hour and half later, Jack had to go. There were more raccoon centric chores that had to be done and it was getting late.

That’s when my poor husband got involved. The next day we tried the trap that my dad let me borrow. We set up our chairs and intently watched our baited trip on the rocky hillside. Within minutes a bunny sniffed out the booty. I jumped up and shooed the saboteur away. A few minutes later he returned. And again, I shooed him away. As soon as I was about to panic, the marmot’s head appeared from within the rocks. He scampered over to the trap, triggered it and then ran right out. The trap was too small.

So the next day, we went to the ranch and home supply store and asked for the traps.

“What’re you trying to trap?” asked the man.

“A marmot,” I said.

He shrugged. “That’s a first.”

I shrugged back and sipped my iced soy latte with cinnamon.

“You’ll want the raccoon sized one,” he said.

I nodded like this was quite obvious.

We placed the trap and waited. Now it seemed like he’d never show himself again. More and more people started to pass. We got strange looks, curious looks, sideways looks and suspicous looks.

marmot overpass

A few people came right up to us and asked what we were doing. I began to keep a tally. Passerby’s fell into three categories: avoids eye contact, gives strange/distrusting looks, or says something. At the end of the day, most people fell into the ‘avoids eye contact’ category.

We spent almost the whole day there and yes, the marmot did show himself. He walked right up to the trap, gave a sniff and then grabbed onto it and shook it. When it didn’t trigger, he walked around to the to the back, stuck his hand through the bars and tried to reach the food. He couldn’t reach it, but he also didn’t go back in the trap. He’d figured out.

We tried again a few more times, but never caught him. Then one day I never saw him again. I tell myself he found a ride back to the mountains, and now he bores all his marmot friends with the story of how he outsmarted two humans and ran off with their apple.

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44 thoughts on “To Trap a Marmot

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Thanks, Carrie!

      I have a feeling the Division of Wildlife is mostly interested in pocketing hunting and fishing licensing fees. But it was quite the experience, and it gave me the trapping knowledge (and the trap) I needed to catch that cat a few months back 🙂

  1. pouringmyartout says:

    Is a marmot like a marmoset? I thought they only lived in Switzerland in the Alps? Anyway, I would be really confused if not for the drawings, which helped a lot. And now, like a Weird Al wannabe, I will rewrite an old song just for this occasion…
    Marmoset there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this, my marmoset… (marmoset, marmoset)…
    come on… sing it with me now…

  2. Marcy says:

    What a funny and cute story. Did you do the drawings? So funny. I am eating a salad driving with chopsticks. My car looks just like yours. I was rolling on the floor.

  3. gpeynon says:

    Great story. Shame it didn’t have a happy ending, but yes, let’s all imagine that he (or she) got a ride home and then founded the Marmot Exploration Club for those marmots who would like to see the world…

  4. b00kreader says:

    Oh my goodness the pictures add to the story, so much, and I loved them. The way you told this story reminds me of Hyperbole and a Half. If you haven’t heard of this look it up. You will find hilarious stories with even more awesome illustrations, my favorite one is called Menace 😀 Enjoy!

  5. julie says:

    JENNIFER!!!! YAY!!!! Ok, I loved the diagrams, they made following the story so much easier! I would have smiled and said “hi”. If I noticed the trap I might have inquired. Had I been informed of the task at hand I would have gotten involved. Maybe the marmoset was simply vacationing, or running away. Or moving to another location. Maybe he found out you were moving and wanted to go with. Keep an eye out for him Jennifer! 🙂

    • julie says:

      Oh yeah, and it was nice of the Division of Wildlife to be so helpful. They were willing to save you the trouble of bringing it back where it should be…

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Yes, I probably would have helped too if I would have been brave enough to ask. I most likely would have stared straight ahead and mumbled to my husband about the weird people sitting under the overpass.

      I’ll keep an eye out. I haven’t seen any marmots around here. I hear they have fisher cats, though, but I haven’t seen any of those either.

      • julie says:

        darn Art got me calling the poor little guy a marmoset! It will probably take him a little longer than it took you to get there, you know, trying to navigate by foot and all, probably doesn’t even have gps…. I hope fisher cats don’t eat marmots, you may never see him again.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Thank you! Yes, he figured out that trap pretty quickly. I think it’s pretty common, though. You have one chance for the trap to trigger and catch them, because they’re not likely to go in it again.

    • jennifer Windram says:

      Yeah, I rescued a baby squirrel once and I think most people thought I was nuts, saying things like, “they’re just rats with fluffy tails,” but I can’t help myself. I’m a sucker for animals 🙂

  6. Celine Jeanjean says:

    That’s such a cute story! I find it so funny that you were eating cupcakes and reading books as you were waiting for the marmot. That’s definitely going further than most people would have!
    Sounds like it’s a bit like trying to herd cats though.

    Let’s hope the little guy decided to get himself a new fur coat from the other mall before heading back to the mountains…..

  7. roughwighting says:

    Great story. I love it when we give wild animals a funny story to take home with them. If I was a children’s author (I’m not), I’d write and draw a picture story about the cute humans playing a game with me.

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