Travel Photo Thursday: Yellow-Bellied Varmints

May 29, 2014

in Travel Photo Thursday

  • SumoMe

“Go ahead, make my day.

“See what happens if you bite that radiator hose.

“Just try gnawing on my car’s wiring.

“Go ahead, make my day, you yellow-bellied varmint!”

Those lines could have been spoken by Clint Eastwood if he had starred in a movie filmed in a Western U.S national park, playing a character mashed up from his roles as the “Man with No Name” in “spaghetti Westerns” and as “Dirty” Harry Callahan, the San Francisco police inspector who frequently “blew away” crime suspects with a Smith & Wesson .44 Magnum revolver.

But In that situation, the “perp” Eastwood would have been taunting into squirrely behavior would have been a Yellow-Bellied Marmot, not a two-legged bad guy.

Yellow-Bellied Marmots are herbivores. But as rodents and members of the squirrel family, it’s only natural that they might act a little “squirrely” when it comes to “trying new foods.”

According to the Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks Website:

Each spring and early summer, the marmots of Mineral King have been known to dine on rare delicacies. Their fare includes radiator hoses and car wiring! Like bears, jays and ground squirrels, marmots have not only become accustomed to visitors, they have learned that people are a source of food.

“In the parking areas some marmots feast on car hoses and wires. They can actually disable a vehicle. On several occasions, marmots have not escaped the engine compartment quickly enough and unsuspecting drivers have given them rides to other parts of the parks; several have ridden as far as southern California!

“The whole thing sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. If you visit Mineral King, especially during the spring, check under you hood before driving away. Let the rangers know whether or not your vehicle has been damaged. And don’t forget, marmots also love to feast on boots, backpack straps, and other salty things such as the grips of hiking poles.”

I can guarantee you that you don’t want to have your car chewed on in Sequoia National Park. The closest town, Three Rivers, is 25 miles or more away. It has two gas stations, but no car repair shops. So you’d probably have to get to Visalia, another 10-plus miles from the park, or Fresno, 80 miles from the park, to get your car fixed.

During the first week of this month, I spotted a Yellow-Bellied Marmot while hiking as snow fell near the General Sherman Tree in Sequoia.

Fortunately for me, I wasn’t in Mineral King (farther south in the park), and although the calendar said it was “Spring,”  the weather was definitely “Winter.” And the marmot was a mile or more away from where I’d left my car parked, so it wasn’t in danger of being “killed” by the fuzzy rodent’s incisors.

Last summer, I spent a few days at Drakesbad Guest Ranch in Lassen Volcanic National Park. I “slept around,” changing rooms three times during my stay. After returning from a hike during the second day of my stay, I almost tripped over a marmot that was living under the porch to my cabin.

My car was parked about 100’ feet away, so the marmot could  have “snacked” on its innards had he (or she) chosen to do so. And even though I changed rooms again the following day, for next two more nights I parked in the same area, giving the wily critter more opportunities to sink its teeth into my “wheels.”

Although luck was with me and the squirrel-brained creature didn’t chomp on my car’s parts, it’s clear from the following video, and this blog post written back in 2010 by another park visitor, that the Yellow-Bellied Marmots of Lassen have been  known to “do lunch under the hood” and chew on hiking pole straps as well.

I’ve seen marmots in Olympic National Park and the Tetons, and you’ll likely to encounter them in many mountain areas in the Western U.S., and the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

So if summer takes you to where the Yellow-Bellied Marmot lives, pop the hood on your car before turning on the ignition. If a marmot is munching away, grab your camera and take a photo so you can upload it to Instagram and Facebook once AAA has towed your “dead” vehicle back to civilization.

(Click on an image to enlarge to full-size. Visit Budget Travelers Sandbox for more of this week’s Travel Photo Thursday shots. Dirty Harry, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, and other Clint Eastwood movies are available in various video versions from Amazon.com. Purchases made through links on this page help Tales Told From The Road continue to bring you a wide range of travel-related stories.)

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