Revision-Break Animal of the Week: The Pika

American Pika


The pika is a small mammal, about the size of a hamster that lives in rocky mountain areas of cool climate. Despite such a similar appearance to hamsters, pikas are more closely related to rabbits and hares. Pikas stockpile vegetation in their burrows for their hibernation period. This vegetation includes things such as wild flowers which means lucky photographers can get a picture of the cute little animals flower-collecting. They also have distinctively out-sized alarm calls – explorers were amazed to find that the loud sounds ringing around the mountains came from such tiny animals. Pika breeding season begins in April and a litter of two to six young are born in May to June.


Pikas are classed as “Least Concern” on the IUCN Red List. They are also potential indicator species for climate change, particularly global warming, as they have very specific insular habitats, exhibits limited dispersal ability and is extremely sensitive to warm temperatures. The warming climate poses a threat to pikas, as their warm furry coat means that high temperatures kills them outright. However, populations may be able to easily move the relatively short distance up mountains as the climate warms. There is some evidence that they can change their behaviour to be more active at dawn and dusk when it is coolers may persist in hotter areas as long as they have access to deep, cool burrows.


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