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American Pika (Ochotona princeps)

Description
American pika

Size

  • Pikas are small lagomorphs, weighing about 160 grams (5.6 ounces).

Appearance

  • Pikas have no apparent tail, and short, rounded ears.
  • They have long, dense fur similar to that of rabbits and hares.
  • In general, upperparts are brownish grey, peppered with black, and underparts are greyish white. However, there is considerable color variation between individuals and populations.

Voice/Call

  • Pikas have a characteristic "bleating" call that is used to announce their presence on a territory. They also have an alarm call that alerts members of the colony to danger.
Distribution
  • In Alberta, pikas are distributed in the Rocky Mountain natural region.
Natural History

Habitat

  • Typical habitat is located at the sites of rock slides.
  • Pikas live in loosely associated colonies where individuals defend small territories of talus (slopes made up of rock fragments) against incursions by neighbors.

Food

  • Pikas eat a variety of plants on and near the rock slide.
  • In late summer, they begin collecting large quantities of vegetation from the meadows and forest adjoining the rock slide.
  • Each pika piles the vegetation in a "haystack" located within its territory in the shelter of the rock. The vegetation dries and provides the pika with some of its winter food.
Reproduction and Growth

Breeding Behaviour

  • The breeding season starts in April and continues into the summer.
  • Litters of three to four young are born to each female about a month after mating. Two litters may be produced in a season.
  • Young are precocial, being densely furred at birth.
Conservation and Management

Status

The pika is classified as Secure in the current General Status of Alberta Wild Species report. See:

 

Page Information

Updated: May 12, 2010