Scene in Edmonds: Can you identify this animal?

The animal in this photo was seen at the Edmonds Marsh on Tuesday, around 11 a.m., Laura Brou said. “The crows were going crazy about its presence. I saw it with David Richman, another local birder. We have not been able to get a positive identification for it because we don’t have a photo that shows the full body or a front view. It did have a long tail. We’ve considered the following: marmot, nutria, muskrat, mountain beaver, and river otter.”

Brou and Richman suggested that we share the photo with other readers, noting that “perhaps someone else can identify it, or will see it at the marsh and get more photographs.”

Brou also said that she showed the photograph to 21 people, and nine thought it was a marmot, six chose nutria, four thought it was a muskrat, one chose mountain beaver, and one selected river otter.

Your thoughts, readers?



  1. Tough to say from the angle but it looks like either a Muskrat or a Nutria. Seeing the full body or full face would make identification easier. Both are not uncommon in Edmonds though they are nocturnal but do sunbask in lower temperatures or feed during the day if food is scarce.

    The only marmot that I am aware of in our area is the Olympic Marmot which is endemic to the Olympic Mountains and most marmot only live in mountain areas so seeing one in the Edmonds Marsh seems unlikely. Mountain beavers do occasionally live in urban areas but most often are found in forested areas. River otters are usually much larger than any of the mentioned species and this doesn’t strike me as an otter.

    1. Looks like an interesting creature. On a side line, does anyone in Edmonds know what our rat population is?

  2. I thought for sure that it was a cougar. As more of their natural habitats get compromised, the more they show up in human occupied zones. We’ve had elk (!!) showing up to eat our garden and we’re in Brier!

    1. Pauline I don’t think it’s a Cougar. If it was it would be wearing crimson and grey.

    1. Thanks everyone for your comments! I received confirmation today from DFW that it is a Yellow-bellied Marmot. Not sure how it ended up at the Marsh, but best guess is that it was a stowaway from cargo/shipping efforts or just hitched a ride in someone’s vehicle recently. There was one at Discovery Park about a decade ago (for about 2 years), and they thought it ended up there in the same manner. If anyone sees it and gets pictures, please share as we will all be interested to see how he does in Edmonds.

      1. I agree with this animal being a marmot, but appears to be more likely a Hoary Marmot. There are many documented cases of marmots hitching a ride and showing up in non-native habitat. They often are attracted to radiator fluid. I’ve read they’ve been a management issue in the Sierra’s causing damage to vehicles at trailheads. This hitchhiking has happened many times with the Olympic marmot and on the Olympic peninsula this year we have had one, perhaps two yellow-bellied marmots found and photographed. I’ve never known a yellow-bellied to have a dark grey face. And as the native habitat for a Hoary is closer (Cascades vs central Washington/eastern foothills of the Cascades), I‘be been waiting for a Hoary to appear out of normal habitat. This seems like the case.

      2. I’m located by 5 corners and have video of that thing running around in my front yard around 1:00 am.

        1. Geoff, can you post a link to your video here or on Nextdoor? As far as I know the Marmot has not been seen since that first sighting.

        2. Geoff and Laura — I’ll connect the two of you via email so you can share info.

  3. Too chubby for a river otter. Marmots are high elevation creatures. Muskrats are sleek-looking animals. Definitely not a cougar…

  4. It’s either a nutria (water rat) or more assuredly, a mountain beaver. Edmonds is full of them…

  5. From Dave Pehling:
    We don’t have marmots in our area and they never inhabit marshy places.

    Mt. beaver don’t have white muzzles, which can be seen on this animal if you look closely.
    Neither do muskrats, which are much smaller.

    Otters have narrower heads and much nicer fur and brown muzzles.

    So…nutria (Myocastor coypu) ARE found in our area, having traveled up North Creek years ago from Lake WA. They have white muzzles and white whiskers (which you can see in the photo if you look very closely) and the pelage color fits that of the species. Nutria in the Skagit river system were controlled years ago but I doubt they got ’em all. The largest one caught there was 16 lbs.
    Nutria, originally imported from S. America, are terribly destructive to wetlands so I hope they get controlled in the marsh. We got back at S. America by sending them beavers (they were actually requested)…which are now causing immense damage down there….

  6. I would also rule out Cougar, using the same reasoning that Colleen Bucklin mentioned. Using her criteria, it’s probably not a Duck either.

  7. It is definitely a yellow-bellied Marmot, as Laura says. They are rare here on Puget Sound, but not unknown. Apparently they can stowaway on trucks or possibly cars. Probably originating in the Cascades. It will be interesting to hear if it is ever seen again. Weird, yes, unheard of, no.

    1. I agree with the Yellow Belly Marmot. Here in Central Wa. we have them in abundance, they can carry diseases, and can be really destructive to both grass areas and marsh areas. Normally dig burrows under rocks but can dig burrows out in flat lands causing injuries to livestock (broken legs, like prairie dog holes).

  8. Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife employees have viewed the photo and confirmed that this is a yellow-bellied marmot. DFW employees noted that about ten years ago one appeared near the lighthouse at Seattle’s Discovery Park and was seen for a couple of years. It appears that they can stowaway on transport vehicles. Perhaps this one hitched a ride on a BNSF frieght train and got off near Edmonds. In response to W. Jon Rappuhn, they are native to many parts of Eastern Washington and are not destructive to the land and vegetation. Their natural proclivities might be inconsistent with domesticated livestock, but the marmots were there first. Humans have done far more damage to Eastern Washington land than the marmots ever could. Human alteration of landscape does more harm to wildlife than wildlife do to humans. DFW employees did not express any concern about destruction to the Edmonds marsh by this one yellow-bellied marmot.

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