The Himalayan marmot (Marmota himalayana) occurs throughout the Himalayan alpine mountain ecosystem. We examined the characteristics of Himalayan marmot habitat, diet, and macronutrient consumption in the upper Mustang region of Nepal. Marmots inhabited warmer valleys close to water sources in areas between 2,900 and 4,800 m above sea level. Soil pH, organic matter, organic carbon, and phosphorus were not different in marmot use versus available habitat; however, potash levels significantly lower in marmot burrow habitat. Seventeen species of plants, including Primula spp., Potentilla fruticosa, Kobresia pygmaea, Anaphalis contorta, Lonicera spinosa, and Carex spp., were recorded in marmot scats over 3 seasons (summer 2010, autumn 2010, and spring 2011). Analysis showed a positive correlation between the total macronutrient content (dry matter protein carbohydrate fat) of plants and their occurrence in the diet. Analysis of the fiber and macronutrient balance of a limited number of plants consumed by marmots showed little difference between pre- and post-hibernation, but suggested that protein balance of foods was higher post-hibernation. Furthermore, relative frequency of plants in the diet did not reflect their abundance in the environment, suggesting active selection of plants high in total macronutrient concentration.
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Vol. 96 • No. 2