Tuesday, October 27, 2009
A pika is a small, furry creature that lives in rocky slopes at high altitudes in the mountains of the western U.S and Canada. They are actually the smallest member of the Rabbit family and look a little like a cross between a rabbit and a mouse.
Pika thrive in one of the most inhospitable habitats to be found anywhere. They endure sub-alpine winters where the snow depth can be in excess of 30 feet and the temperature regularly reaches -30 F. in the winter. This is particularly interesting since, as rabbits, they do not hibernate.
Pika have adapted a very interesting lifestyle in order to deal with the harshness of their environment. They develop family communes in the rocks and work together to fill their needs. During the short alpine summer, they scurry about gathering grasses and sedges that surround the rocks and pile them up in stone pockets that are found under the surface of the talus slope. When the snow flies and the wind blows in the winter, the pika in the colony retreat to the depths of the rock pile and eat the fruits of their labors all winter long. The temperature under the surface stays warmer as they are insulated by the snow cover and in this way they are able to survive the cold.
Pika can be found on almost any mountain top over 9,000 feet. Locate them by walking through the rocks and listening for the "chee chee" sound that they emit when they are alarmed. To photograph them just find a comfortable place to sit and soon you will see them scurrying about gathering their years supply.