American Pikas

American Pika
Cute little American Pikas are found in isolated colonies only in the higher elevations at Bandelier.

photo by sally king

Pika in Bandelier?
If a contest were ever held to determine which animal in the animal kingdom is 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. Pikas are alpine residents. If they cannot regulate their body temperature by going into cooler areas beneath the talus surface, they are intolerant of even short-term hot temperatures. In this park, pikas are found in small, isolated colonies at higher 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.
 
pika with food
Pikas eat a variety of green plants.  They also collect plant materials and store them in "haystacks" under rocks to eat during the winter.

photo by sally king

Rabbits, not Rats
Pikas are closely related to rabbits and hares. In comparison to their relatives, pikas have shorter, rounder ears, and their hind legs are only slightly longer than their front legs. Unlike rabbits, pikas run and don't hop. Pikas emit a variety of sounds; their calls are very different from those made by their typically very-quiet cousins. In and around Bandelier, pikas are active mostly during the morning and evening hours. They will often venture off their rockpile homes to eat or collect plants for later consumption
 
pika on rock
Pikas are active year round and travel in tunnels under the snow and rocks during the winter.

photo by sally king

The Cold of Winter
Pikas 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 pikas risk freezing to death. The pikas stay alive during the long cold winter by eating dried plants cached earlier in the year and may travel out to vegetated areas nearby to collect more plant materials when possible.
 
American pika
They may be cute but they also soon may be gone.  The American Pika has already undergone marked range reduction across northern New Mexico.

photo by sally king

In Danger?
If the cutest-animal contest isn't held soon, the American Pika may not be around to attend. As climate trends change globally, pikas may face local extinctions or reductions in their abundance, especially among the isolated colonies in places such as Bandelier. As environmental conditions and the resulting vegetation continue to change, the pikas in Bandelier may become a part of the Monument’s (recent) past, rather than its current state.

 
pika 3
American Pika are closely related to rabbits.

photo by sally king

 
american pika
In Bandelier, pikas only live in boulder fields in the higher elevations.

photo by sally king

 
pika in hole 3
Larger rocks also provide 1) more-stable environments (temperatures) beneath them, and 2) protection from avalanches and rockslides.

photo by sally king

Last updated: August 21, 2018

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

Bandelier National Monument
15 Entrance RD

Los Alamos, NM 87544

Phone:

(505) 672-3861 x517

Contact Us