Wildlife on the TMB – the alpine marmot

alpine marmot on the TMB

One of the wild animals you might see while hiking the Tour du Mont Blanc or the Chamonix Zermatt Haute Route is the alpine marmot (Marmota marmota). Sometimes you’ll see them scurrying around looking for food or laying on a rock while sunbathing. But you’ll most likely hear one before you see one.


When you hear a high-pitched whistle while hiking in the mountains, it is most likely that there are marmots around. Marmots live in underground burrows and when they are above ground they warn each other for potential danger by emitting whistling sounds. If a marmot on the lookout whistles, other marmots will know they’ll have to run for cover, back to their burrows. When you hear such whistling it’s worthwhile stopping and having a good look around. It’s always very exciting to see these mammals getting about with their daily life. You might be surprised at how big they are. Although in souvenirs shops all around the Alps you can find many kinds of cute little fluffy marmot toys, in real life they can be quite big, weighing up to eight kilograms!

One whistle

If you just hear one loud whistle, you might also want to look up into the sky. Often a marmot warns others with a single whistle for danger coming from the sky. Perhaps a golden eagle is flying over!

Alpine marmot on TMB
Alpine marmot on the Tour du Mont Blanc near the Lacs de Chéserys in the Aiguille Rouge nature reserve, France.

A series of whistles

If you hear a series of whistles, it might mean potential danger is coming from the ground. Maybe a marmot has spotted a fox looking for a snack.      

Let us know

I hope you get to hear or, even better, get to see these iconic mountain animals on your Tour du Mont Blanc or Chamonix – Zermatt Haute Route. When you do, please feel free to let us know in the comments below!

Simone van Velzen

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