Distribution. Widely distributed in the steppes of southern Russia and Kazakhstan; range as far west as Central Europe.
According to Prof. Kenneth Armitage, the steppe marmot is a large analog of the North American prairie dog. With a particularly round paunch, and a laid-back alert posture, steppe marmots would feel at home in Colorado. Unlike most other species, steppe marmots prosper on rolling grasslands and on the edge of cultivated fields. Active for about five and a half months each year, dispersers leave their natal social group after their second hibernation. Litter sizes average a little over five, and it takes at least three years to reach sexual maturity. About 60% of adult females breed in a given year. They have a single alarm call, but Prof. Alexander Nikolskii's long-term studies have demonstrated that steppe marmots call faster when they live in steep terrain and slower when they live in flatter terrain. Steppe marmots have served as a natural "food" reservoir that saved many Russians from starving to death during periodic famines over the last hundred years, and their fur is used to make hats and the occasional coat. Outside Moscow, a fur-farm is experimenting with breeding steppe marmots in captivity for captive fur production.
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