Wildlife Portfolio of the Western National Parks
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THE ROCKY MOUNTAIN PIKA closely resembles a diminutive rabbit and is a close relative of the rabbit tribe. An outstanding difference is that rabbits have no thought for the morrow and do not lay by a food supply for winter while the pikas gather and store up food late in summer and early in fall to be used when the country is covered with a heavy blanket of snow.

This species is about the size of a small guinea pig, with a chunky body, small rounded ears and bobbed tail. It has a length of about 7-1/2 inches; tail, practically nil. The soles of the feet are densely haired so that even during the coldest weather it is able to hop noiselessly about in its rocky home without getting cold feet.

If it were not for their shrill little "bleating" cries, pikas would quite escape detection because their gray color blends so perfectly with the granite rocks amid which they live. Possessing a keen sense of sight and of hearing they are quick to discover any approaching danger and immediately pop back into their dens.

These little animals are inhabitants of the broken rock slides on the talus slopes of the higher Rocky Mountains. At Lincoln Peak, Glacier National Park, on August 12, 1931, I found a pika at the entrance to his home taking a sun bath in a pile of broken rocks. Though timid, it remained, quietly watching me and twitching its nose, evidently attempting to ascertain what kind of a strange venturer had invaded its mountain home. Although the winter was still far distant, this pika was beginning to cut and gather some of the alpine plants which grew in a little meadow near its home. I found that several different varieties of plants had already been harvested. Then, when the winter snowstorms come and the landscape is buried beneath a deep white blanket, the pika, instead of having to "dig" for his dinner, is able to run about all winter through the underground passages and cracks, amid the broken rocks that form his home. Protected by a solid roof of snow and kept warm by his thick gray overcoat and warm fur slippers, he sits comfortably at home with a well-earned food supply.


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Last Updated: 01-Jul-2010