Local biologists have made a shocking discovery about the Spokane region’s marmot population, once estimated to be comprised of more than 4,000 marmots.

“To estimate animal population, we’ll tag a sample size of the critter in a given area and crunch some numbers to find an estimate of how many are living in that region,” explained area rodent expert, Peter Dunau. “While it’s not uncommon to catch the same animal twice, it is uncommon to catch the same animal twice in one day—in two totally separate regions.”

Catching and tagging the marmots is no easy task, either. “You have to become very comfortable with having your face extremely close to a marmot’s face,” Dunau’s colleague and rodentilogical communications expert Peyton Scheller said, explaining the difficulties of placing an RFID tag on such a fluffy animal.

Dunau explains that after collecting data near the lower Spokane Falls, the crew headed out to Liberty Lake, where they wound up capturing not one, but two of the marmots they had tagged in downtown Spokane just an hour before.

“There was either a mistake in our trackers, or that marmot had traveled about 18 miles in less than 60 minutes,” said Dunau.

It turns out that was exactly what had happened.

“Like a little fuzzy rocket ship,” said Tim Robinson, Dunau’s colleague and fellow marmot expert. “As soon as you let go of ‘em, they’re off to the races.”

And off to the races they are—this special breed of speedy rodent has been clocked at over 70mph. Robinson claims that most people aren’t aware of the creature’s existence because they simply can’t see them. “Like a brown blur,” said Robinson.

The real kicker to this story is just how many of the furry critters exist in our region. “Our best guess is that there are most likely three, but no more than four marmots that exist in the entire Spokane region,” explained Dunau. “It’s just that they move so quickly that they’ll show up in 30 to 40 different locations in an afternoon. On the same day, 200 people in Spokane might see the same marmot.”

The group plans to publish its findings later this afternoon, just in time for the holiday.