Article

Collared Pika

a pika perched among rocks

NPS Photo / Lian Law

Collared pika are one of only two species of pika in North America and are currently found in Alaska and Canada. The other species, the American pika, lives farther south in North America and has become a canary in the coal mine for climate change because it is very susceptible to warming and has been lost from many areas where it once occurred. But for collared pika, we don’t know whether temperature changes are a threat.
a pika perched among rocks
Collared pika in a talus outcrop in Denali National Park, AK.

Jen Wall

Collared pika live in talus outcrops, which are rocky outcrops or boulder fields with individual rocks between shoebox- to truck-sized. Unlike ground squirrels and marmots, they do not hibernate.

In order to survive all winter long, they spend the summer gathering plants, drying them in the sun, and then storing them as “hay piles” amongst and under the rocks. They even store toxic plants, like the Alpine avens, to use as a preservative, and wait to eat it until the toxic chemicals break down and it’s safe to eat.
closeup among rocks of tiny plants piled into a stack
Collared pika spend the summer gathering plants and store them as hay piles, like this one, hidden between the rocks in Denali National Park, AK.

Jen Wall

Collared pika are related to rabbits and hares, but they have short, round ears. Their name comes from the light circle of fur around their neck that forms a “collar”.

They are about the size of a small rat or guinea pig and live in colonies. Their alarm call sounds like the high-pitched squeak of a dog toy- so if you hear a toy-like squeak, be on the lookout for collared pika.
a pika perched atop a rock
Collared pika in Denali National Park, AK. Note the short, round ears, and the light circle of fur around their neck that forms a “collar."

Jen Wall

Because they are highly sensitive to temperature changes and are restricted to talus outcrops, collared pika are likely to be threatened by climate change. Collared pika are listed as a species of greatest conservation need by Alaska’s State Wildlife Action Plan and a species of special concern under the Species at Risk Act in Canada.

Current IUCN Listing: Least Concern
For more information, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Last updated: July 1, 2020