Pika in Bandelier?
If a contest was ever held to determine which animal in the animal kingdom was the cutest, the American Pika would definitely be amongst the qualifiers. You might not expect to find this small ball of fur with legs in Bandelier National Monument. Pika are alpine residents and are intolerant of even short term hot temperatures. In this park, pika are found in small isolated colonies only at the highest elevations. They live in volcanic boulder fields where they retreat to cool tunnels under the rocks for protection from the heat on long summer days.
Rabbits, not Rats
Pika are closely related to rabbits and hares. Pika have shorter, rounder ears and their hind legs are only slightly longer than their front legs. Unlike rabbits, pika run and don't hop. Pika emit a variety of sounds which is also very different from their very quiet cousins. Pika are active mostly during the day. They will often venture off their rockpile homes to eat or collect plants for later consumption.
The Cold of Winter
Pika do not hibernate but stay active all winter long traveling in tunnels under the rocks and snow. In fact, a deep blanket of snow is important for the pika's survival. If the snow is deep enough it provides insulation for the pikas living below. Too little snow and the pika risk freezing to death. The pika stay alive during the long cold winter by eating dried plants cached earlier in the year and by traveling out to vegetated areas nearby to collect more plant materials.
Last updated: February 24, 2015