Montana marmot miseries

July 7, 2021

Two weeks in Montana’s Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness Area is usually among the highlights of my summer, as my smiling visage confirms in the below picture. 

Thanks to my wife’s gracious parents, I enjoy a tranquil view in every direction, including this one from their rustic cabin set on a mountainside.

The Stillwater River flows from the wilderness into the Yellowstone River.  It’s a favorite of kayakers and is popular for fly fishing.  I prefer to simply drop a hook baited with a green cricket off a bridge to tempt brown and rainbow trout and have often been rewarded with such a simple lure.

But not all is sweet and lovely in the wilderness.  Witness my tired Chevy Malibu (78,000 miles and with several windshield dings) rented from a Billings used car company as discussed in my previous post:

Notice the bonnet is up. Why? Because of the nasty fat marmots that keep trying to eat everything under the hood. They gnaw on and destroy soft parts in the engine compartment. Marmots shredded the inside of my wife’s brother’s car a week ago.  They like wiring and hoses and certainly have the choppers for the job (with thanks to Mia McPherson for this vivid toothy illustration).

The National Park Service recommends a drastic “Christmas present” approach requiring a large tarp.  You drive over the tarp, then tie it over your car as shown in the article’s picture.

But I don’t have a 20′ × 24′ tarp to wrap up my car, standard practice now in places like Yosemite to discourage marmots, so I am trying other reportedly effective deterrents: (1) lots of super-hot cayenne pepper liberally dusted in the engine compartment and on the ground around the car (the red stuff in the photo); (2) a bar of Irish Spring laid on the air filter, Q.V.; and (3) leaving the hood open when parked.  Marmots apparently like to chew up things in private—meaning in the dark—and they don’t like the smell of Irish Spring or cayenne pepper. I’m praying it works. There are many damnable marmot varmints about.

Earlier today a friend in Wyoming recommended mothballs for the whistle pigs (as he called them) strewn under the car to drive them away, so now I’ve added mothballs tossed beneath the car.

Another friend advised using dryer sheets placed under the car and in the engine compartment. Maybe I’ll pick some up.

But who knows if any of these deterrents is any more realistic than garlic to ward off vampires? 

Wait…garlic!  I haven’t yet tried garlic to daunt marmots.

Could be worse, I guess: Grizzly bears are native to these parts, and grizzlies like to eat people rather than car parts—or at least habitually kill them for reasons known only to bears, and I am grateful for the absence of feral hogs, also known as indiscriminate consumers of protein and capable of digesting every part of the human body.

Thankfully, too, no Namibian spitting zebra cobras have been sighted nearby, as one was on someone’s front porch in my hometown of Raleigh last week after escaping from its puerile owner.

Suddenly marmots are looking pretty cute and cuddly.

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