Pikas

A pika with vegetation in its mouth

A pika, blending in with its surroundings, carries greenery to its haystack. Yellowstone provides classic talus habitat for pikas.

NPS/Waller

 

The pika (Ochotona princeps) is considered an indicator species for detecting ecological effects of climate change. While abundant in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, pika numbers are declining in some areas of lower elevations in response to increased warming, which reduces their suitable habitat. While the recent US Fish and Wildlife Service review of the pika found no current need to list the species as threatened or endangered, pikas will likely disappear from some lower elevation or warmer sites. Learn More: Pika Behavior and Research...

 

Quick Facts

Number in Yellowstone

Abundant

Where to See

  • Tower and Mammoth areas, most often
  • Identification and Behavior
  • 7–8.4 in. long, 5.3–6.2 ounces (about the size of a guinea pig).
  • Active year-round; agilely darts around on rocks; travels through tunnels under snow.
  • Breed in spring; two litters per year.
  • Often heard but not seen; makes a distinct shrill whistle call or a short “mew.”
  • Grey to brown with round ears, no tail. Blends in with rocks.
  • Scent marks by frequently rubbing cheeks on rocks.
  • In late summer it gathers mouthfuls of vegetation to build “haystacks” for winter food; defends haystacks vigorously.
  • Haystacks often built in same place year after year; have been known to become three feet in diameter.
  • Like rabbits and hares, pika eat their own feces, which allows additional digestion of food.

Habitat

  • Found on talus slopes and rock falls at nearly all elevations in the park.
  • Eat plant foods such as grasses, sedges, aspen, lichen, and conifer twigs.
  • Predators include coyotes, martens, and hawks.

Management Concerns

Pikas are vulnerable to loss of habitat related to climate change.

 

More Information

Did You Know?