Yellow-Bellied Marmot Hitches Wild Ride

County Animal Services recently rescued a yellow-bellied marmot after it was found hiding on the inside of a bumper of a car that had traveled six hours from the Dinky Lakes Wilderness area to Encinitas.

Encinitas resident Karl Knoblock was three hours into his drive back from Dinky Wilderness when he stopped to take a break. He noticed what appeared to be a tail sticking out from the front bumper of his car. He thought he had hit and killed an animal and proceeded home. Three hours later when he arrived in Encinitas, he heard the animal under the bumper of his car.

“I just couldn’t believe the animal was actually alive and it had traveled all that way,” said Knoblock. “I couldn’t get it out of my car, so I contacted County Animal Services.”

Knoblock drove his vehicle to Animal Services shelter in Carlsbad where staff confined his car in an enclosed area in case the animal got loose. Animal Control Officer Joni Palumbo spent an hour attempting to capture the animal as it cunningly moved about various areas of the vehicle’s engine.

“Once I got a hold of the animal’s hindquarters, I was amazed at how strong it was as it grabbed a portion of the vehicle and wouldn’t let go,” said Officer Palumbo. “I had no idea what type of animal I was dealing with at this point.”

The animal was successfully captured unharmed. Yellow-bellied Marmots are not indigenous to San Diego County. The animal is a ground squirrel that lives in the western United States and southwestern Canada, including the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada at elevations above 6,500 feet. The California Fish and Game Department has been notified and will be making arrangements to re-home the animal.