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Lagomorphs

The American Pika

The American pika (Ochotona princeps) occurs through much of the Rocky Mountains, from southern Alaska, through British Columbia, and the northwestern United States. The American pika is about 7.5-7.9 in (19-20 cm) long, and weighs 6.1-8.2 oz (175-235 g).

Pikas are active during the day. When they are not foraging, they spend much of their time surveying their alpine domain for danger, usually from the top of a prominent rock. When a potential predator is seen to approach, the pika emits loud bleats, which warn other animals of the danger. However, as with many types of warning calls of small mammals and birds, it is very difficult to locate the source of the bleating noise, so the pika is not readily revealing its location. If a human sits quietly nearby, most pikas will carefully approach to appraise the nature of the intruder.

Pikas do not hibernate, remaining active under the alpine snowpack. They store fodder for their long winters, as large haystacks of dried forage, each about 0.25 m3 in volume, and typically located beneath an overhanging rock that provides shelter from the weather.

Pikas are prey for a wide range of alpine predators, including the golden eagle, buteo hawks, foxes, and mustellids such as weasels. Pikas are especially vulnerable to predators when they are foraging in alpine meadows, beyond the immediate safety of the rocks and crevices in which these animals typically find shelter and protection. However, some smaller predators, such as the ermine (Mustela erminea), can follow pikas through their pathways and tunnels among the rocks.

A black-tailed jackrabbit. JLM Visuals. Reproduced by permission.

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Kabbalah Mysticism - Types Of Kabbalah to LarynxLagomorphs - Families Of Lagomorphs, Rabbits And Hares Of North America, The American Pika, Economic Importance