The Italian Almanac


Italian News - June 7

The European version of America's beloved groundhog has returned to the Dolomites. Twenty pairs of the cuddly critters - called marmots over here - have been reintroduced into the National Park of the Belluno Dolomites, where naturalists hope they will multiply over the coming years. "The Alpine marmot is at risk of extinction in most mountain areas and we hope this pilot scheme will spur others," said the director of the wildlife preserve, Nino Martino.

"We hope to bring another 40 pairs next year". Martino explained that the marmots, captured over the last few weeks in other regions of the north, will be re-released into the wild after being tagged. "They will be closely followed as they mate and bring up their young, hopefully staying within the confines of the Park".

According to experts, the preserve in the mountains around the northeastern city of Belluno can contain up to 1,500 marmots. Martino said the marmots' return would bring more tourists to the preserve - "spotting one is always a joy for visitors, especially the younger ones" - and would help re-balance the fauna present.

The creatures - which are also known as woodchucks in the United States - feed on specific kinds of vegetation which have been threatening to overrun the park.