Marmots in Zermatt: to cull or not to cull?

Zermatt is currently in an existential dilemma as it considers ways to deal with the large marmot population in the resort.

Regular visitors to our blog will recall that we wrote about this issue in May 2018, noting how our cuddly friends have moved down from high altitude and into the town itself.

“Rodent holes are dangerous”

The issue with the marmots is that they have been damaging property, ranging from people’s gardens to – more significantly – destabilising retaining walls by digging beneath them.

“Rodent holes are dangerous for livestock, farm machinery and farmers,” according to local councillor Franziska Biner.



Hibernation is almost over

The issue has come back into focus as the winter hibernation period – when these creatures slow their heartbeat down to just twenty beats per minute – is almost over. According to tradition, it’s St Joseph’s Day on March 19th when the marmots will reappear.

The question is ‘Where will they reappear?’

If it’s on the mountain, that’s not a problem. But the suggestion is that marmots have been migrating to ‘the city’ to avoid predators, such as foxes and eagles.

The Marmot Trail

The Marmot Trail is the best way to see marmots in Zermatt

Cull and hunting both authorized

We mentioned in our previous blog that the head of Hunting, Fishing and Wildlife for the Valais canton, Peter Scheibler, had authorized a cull in autumn, as well as an extension of the hunting season.

Following this ruling, 170 marmots were shot by hunters in September 2018. It’s this decision to allow hunting that is currently under scrutiny.

Petition has more than 50,000 signatures

A petition on Mesopinions.com to ‘Save the Zermatt Marmots’ – created by Hélène Petit – currently has over 52,000 signatures.

The petition objects to the decision to increase hunting and the cull on ethical grounds. Instead they propose that the marmots could be anaesthetised and then relocated to a different area where over-population is not an issue.

No to anaesthetisation and relocation

Earlier this week, it was decided that the debate on the fate of Zermatt’s marmots will not go to the Swiss parliament. The petition was considered but voted down by 85 votes to 29, with 6 abstentions.

The argument will continue, but as always, the best place to see marmots is on the slopes of Zermatt this summer


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