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Bernal Heights Yellow-Bellied Marmot Captured

| August 8, 2013
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Not the Bernal Marmot, but a marmot nonetheless. This one on Mt. Dana in Yosemite. (Inklein/Wikipedia)

Not the Bernal Marmot, but a marmot nonetheless. This one is on Mount Dana in Yosemite. (Inklein/Wikipedia)

We know they call it Bernal Heights, but the yellow-bellied marmot, an animal spotted in the San Francisco neighborhood in June, is usually found at elevations of 6,000 feet or higher, so really had no business there. After someone blew the whistle on the critter, it went to ground, apparently, eluding capture until Wednesday, when it was finally nabbed at Alvarado Elementary School in Noe Valley, according to wildlife rescuer Rebecca Dmytryk.

Noe Valley. That’s the lowlands, marmot. Totally out of your element.

A San Francisco Animal Care and Control officer captured the marmot at the school after it was seen running out from under the hood of a car. Animal Care and Control headquarters spokeswoman Deb Campbell said the animal is in good health and has been eating apples.  Staff members have noticed that the marmot has been whistling, she said, noting that the animals are nicknamed “whistle pigs.”

Dmytryk said a rescuer from her organization will pick up the marmot and take it to the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley in San Jose for an examination. The animal will then be taken up to the mountains, where she said it likely came from.

Dmytryk said yellow-bellied marmots are often unwittingly transported elsewhere because “they’re notorious for going up under hoods of cars after sweet-smelling radiator fluids.” She said the marmot likely appears to have traveled to the Noe Valley school in an engine compartment. Dmytryk said the goal is to get the marmot back up into a mountainous region in time for winter, when the species hibernates.

If you want to see photos of the thing — which prompt some people to go “ooohhhh” with pursed lips whenever they gaze at a fur-bearing creature, no matter how rodent-like — then head on over to Bernalwood, which has the visual exclusive.

Here is the marmot’s Twitter page, which we suspect was ghostwritten. Nevertheless, the marmot appears to be resting comfortably …

Duane could not be reached for comment.

Let’s see, what else? Oh. Yellow-bellied marmot quick fun fact: according to a 2010 report in the journal Nature, climate change has actually led to weight gain and an increase in population in the species, due to additional warm days. So see, climate change is not all bad, worry warts.

KQED Science and yellow-bellied marmot correspondent Molly Samuel tells us one way that scientists determine where animals like the marmot live is by tracking their scat. Biologists have told her that you can reliably find their feces at the tops of geographical structures like rocky overlooks. “Marmots like a poop with a view,” she says these scientists like to say.

Oh, scientists.

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  • Deb Peralta

    We named him Buster. He was living here in the Mission for about 2 1/2 weeks. We’ve been feeding him, thinking he was a huge gofer. Yesterday my neighbor Carlos headed up to Noe Valley, not realizing Buster hitched a ride until he parked at Alvarado school. Guess it was meant to be. Now he’ll get a ride up where he should be. We will miss Buster. He made us smile everyday. He seems much to tame to go back in the wild though. Do you think he’ll be alright?