Living about 1,300 feet above tree line in the Swiss Alps
, marmots burrow into the rocky and often frozen ground. Alpine marmots live in monogamous family groups of about 15-20 individuals in underground burrows. The burrows consist of 8 to 10-foot-long tunnels with one big room called a den, where the entire family hibernates in the winter. Each group has a mating parental pair, with the female in the pair, versus other females in the family, being the only one to get pregnant, and even then, only when her body weight and environmental conditions are conducive to gestation.
While friendly in their family groups, marmots guard their groups with a precise system of sentry points and alerts. The mating female acts particularly ferocious when strangers invade her territory.
Currently alpine marmots do not find themselves endangered, but with hunters killing 6,000 annually in Austria and Switzerland, this situation could change.