There are two species of Marmots that reside in South Dakota. The Woodchuck and the Yellow-bellied Marmot. The Woodchuck is found in the southeast side of South Dakota, and the Yellow-Bellied Marmot can be seen on the west side of the state in the Black Hills.
I have seen Yellow-bellied Marmots around Keystone, Hanna Road near the Cheyenne Crossing, and Deadwood. They are always near large rocks with plenty of grasses nearby. They like to perch themselves on the rocks to keep an eye out for predators, and to relax in the warm sun. I assume they also have burrows among the rocks where they retreat when something approaches. I took the photos below of a Yellow-bellied Marmot in Deadwood a few days after a late May snow storm, it’s fur was still a little wet.
Scientific Name: Marmota flaviventris
Identification: 20–28 inches long; 3.5–11 pounds. Reddish-brown upper body; yellowish belly; small ears; prominent active tail.
- Hibernate up to 8 months, emerging from February to May depending on elevation; may estivate in June in response to dry conditions and lack of green vegetation and reappear in late summer.
- Breed within two weeks of emerging from hibernation; average five young per year.
- Active in morning, late afternoon, and evening.
- Colonies consist of one male, several females, plus young of the year.
- Vocalizations include a loud whistle (early settlers called them “whistle pigs”), a “scream” used for fear and excitement; a quiet tooth chatter that may be a threat.
- Males are territorial; dominance and aggressiveness demonstrated by waving tail slowly back and forth.