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|Bobak marmot range.|
The bobak marmot (Marmota bobak), also known as the steppe marmot, is a species of marmot that inhabits the steppes of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It is a social animal and inhabits steppe grassland, including cultivated field borders. It hibernates for more than half the year. Litter sizes average about five offspring and it takes three years for the young marmots to reach sexual maturity. Male offspring leave the home colony after their second winter, and about 60% of mature females give birth in any one year. The fur is used to make hats and coats and a Moscow fur-farm is experimenting with breeding bobak marmots for their pelts.
The bobak marmot is native to the steppes of Eastern Europe (primarily Ukraine and Russia) and Central Asia. It is also found in Belarus. Thus, its range stretches from Eastern Europe to North and Central Kazakhstan, and is particularly found between the Siversky Donets and Don Rivers (Kharkiv and Luhansk Oblasts in Ukraine and neighbouring regions in Russia) and east to Kazakhstan.
The bobak marmot is a large analog of the North American prairie dog, with a particularly round paunch and a laid-back alert posture. Unlike most other species, bobak 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 studies have demonstrated that bobak marmots call faster when they live in steep terrain and slower when they live in flatter terrain. Bobak marmots have served as a natural food "reservoir" that has saved many Ukrainians, Russians and Soviets 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 bobak marmots in captivity for captive fur production.
Like other marmots, the bobak is susceptible to infection by bubonic plague. A population of bobaks living in the Ural Mountains is believed to have served as a reservoir host for the bubonic plague epidemic that struck western Russia at the end of the 19th century.
- M. b. bobak
- M. b. tschaganensis
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- Tsytsulina, K., Zagorodnyuk, I., Formozov, N. & Sheftel, B. Marmota bobak in: IUCN 2010. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2010.2
- Thorington, R. W. Jr. and R. S. Hoffman. 2005. Family Sciuridae. Pp. 754–818 in Mammal Species of the World a Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. D. E. Wilson and D. M. Reeder eds. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore.