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  • The America Pika is a resident of the rocky mountain terrain in western North America.

  • The pika spends most of the day gathering food, protecting their territory, and watching for predators like eagles, hawks, foxes, coyotes, and bobcats. Photo credit: KerriMartinPhotography.com

American pikas are small, rodent-like mammals that live in the mountains of western North America. These close relatives to rabbits and hares have short, stout bodies with big ears. Their fur is peppery brown -- allowing them to camouflage against rocks and boulders.

Pikas are very active during the day, especially in the months leading to winter, spending most of their day gathering food. Pikas don’t hibernate, so they generally spend these months collecting and storing food they’ll eat over the winter.

Protecting their territory and watching for predators is another way pikas spend their time.  Eagles, hawks, foxes, coyotes, and bobcats are major threats to these small critters.

Over the past decade a new and even deadlier threat has arisen - global warming. In Nevada and Oregon alone, they’ve disappeared from over one-third of their known habitat.  

The pika has adapted to cold temperatures living in the alpine climate, and the increasingly higher temperatures have created a lethal environment for them. The heavy fur that used to protect them during the winter months is now a hindrance because they can die from overheating when exposed for just a few hours.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering the pika for protection under the Endangered Species Act. Their shrinking population is a warning that global warming is having a devastating impact on our environment and precious wildlife.

Pika Facts

Scientific Name: Ochotona Princeps

Diet: Green plants, wildflowers, grasses, sedges, thistles and fireweed

Size: 7 – 8 inches long

Gestation period: 30 days

Life Span: 3 – 4 years

Fun Fact: Pikas are very vocal critters. They have two distinct calling sounds – a short warning call and a longer vocalization, often described as a song. The long, song like call is performed during breeding season.

 

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