Video by demoe81
Have you ever been in the parking lot for a trailhead and seen a bunch of cars with chicken wire blocking off their undercarriage? Maybe you were in Canada, looking to do some climbing, and you saw a bunch of cars covered in plastic fencing or tarps.
It’s a bit of a bizarre sight, and can certainly be a bit unsettling, but these people aren’t worried about men of the woods climbing under their cars to steal catalytic converters. Instead, they’re trying to keep mischievous critters, like porcupine and marmots, from chewing on the wires, fuel lines, and brake lines underneath their vehicles.
If you dig around a bit on google, you’ll find plenty of forums where people are saying that it’s not an uncommon thing to do. One Redditor, u/hiacbanks, inquired about this subject several years ago after seeing a blog post on the subject.
The comments, though, again, aren’t official in any way, agree with the importance. Redditor u/sparrowxc claims that some trail heads in Canada will actually provide chicken wire at the entrance. The question was also asked over on Mountain Project over eight years ago, with commenters responding in a multitude of different ways.
“There is a huge problem of marmots chewing on cars coolant hoses in the Mineral King area of Sequoia National Park. My favorite story is the one where a guy drove from Mineral King to LA and then found a marmot still alive under his hood. That’d be a 5 hr drive/300+ miles ! Note: it’s only a problem in early summer. May & June. By July they move to higher ground and stop chewing.” – Chad Namolik on Mountain Project
NPS Says No Chicken Wire
Unfortunately for the chicken wire advocates, many marmots have learned how to get through or around the wiring, so it’s no longer an advised technique. Who, you may ask, is my source on this? Why, the National Park Service, of course. Instead, in major marmot territory, the NPS recommends driving over a tarp and wrapping it around your entire vehicle. This will protect both your property and the animals.
Additionally, the NPS recommends cleaning your car before heading into marmot territory, checking for possible damage when returning to your vehicle, looking under the hood for marmot activity, turning the key to just on before fully starting the engine to ensure all of the warning lights come on, and listening for unusual sounds while starting the engine.
Image Credit: Nic via Instagram