Global warming, as we all know, is a very, very bad thing.
There are, however, some unexpected benefits to be gained from our planet heating up. Last month, for example, Backpacker Magazine dedicated an entire issue to the problems of global warming. One of the articles featured in this issue (but, alas, not online) is titled Species We Can Kiss Goodbye. This certainly sounds ominous and my heart goes out to the American pika, wolverine, and Bicknell’s thrush which may all soon disappear. The article, however, also mentions that marmots might suffer a similar fate.
Excuse for a moment; Yeahhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!
If you’ve ever been backpacking in the Sierras you know what I’m talking about. Marmots are the cat burglars of the backcountry, pilfering and destroying anything shiny or salty left alone for even the briefest of moments. I’ve seen sweaty shirts ripped to pieces, bota bags torn asunder and even watches ripped off from the campsite (marmots love the salty leather bands). And don’t even think of leaving any food out.
In fact, marmot activities are so bad in Kings Canyon National Park that visitors bring chicken wire to wrap around the base of their cars in the parking lot. Otherwise backpackers return from their time in the mountains to a car whose underbelly of rubber tubes has been chewed open by hungry marmot vandals.
So why are these critters endangered? According to Backapcker Magazine, global warming is wrecking havoc with the marmot’s internal clock, causing the animal to emerge from hibernation more than a month earlier than normal when snow might still be on the ground. This means that there is little food to eat and no backpackers to steal from. This lack of food and a colder environment may ultimately force the critter to burn “muscle instead of fat to jump-start its metabolism–which makes it vulnerable to starvation and predation.”
And, of course, vigilante backpackers tired of getting jacked by these thugs.