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Guest bog: Steve Birkinshaw, On the Search for Alpine Marmots

Friday, 7 December 2018

My daughter, Hannah, loves seeing wild animals. She is delighted to have red squirrels in our garden. So this year when we said we were planning on a family holiday in Europe with six days in the Swiss Alps and there was a possibility of seeing Marmots she was very excited. We warned her that the chances of seeing them were very small but we would do our best. 

After four days of walking up in the mountains we had, as expected, seen no sign of marmots. Then on day five we were on the train up from Zermatt towards Gornergrat and my wife, Emma, spotted one out of the train window. Unfortunately it was only a fleeting glimpse and no one else saw it. We chose a path on the walk down to Zermatt that passed the spot where Emma had seen the marmot. There were the burrows but no sign of the marmots. Hannah was really disappointed, it was worse to have been so close but not have seen one than never feeling that we were likely to see one. However, we had one last day.

That night we read everything we could about where to find them near Interlaken, where we were staying. It seemed there were some around near Schynige Platte. So we got up early and the family caught the first train up to Schynige Platte, while I took the opportunity to run up the 1,300-metre climb. After walking thirty minutes from the station they spotted one. Then another and another and some baby ones, all really close to the track. Everyone and especially Hannah was really excited The fact that it was cold and drizzling did not matter (it felt just like being at home compared to the really hot and sunny weather we had on the rest of the holiday).

After about twenty minutes, I turned up and there were a couple of marmots still visible but they were beginning to go back into their burrows. Ten minutes later they were all gone. A big group walked past looking out for Marmots but we decided it was best not to tell them we had just had a brilliant view of some but it was now too late. It was the highlight of Hannah’s holiday and she loves the cuddly toy Marmot we bought from the shop at Schynige Platte.

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