7 Fun Facts About American Pika – Mountain Dwellers

american pika

Have you seen this small mammal high up in the Rocky Mountains?

The American Pika is another small mammal that lives in the alpine area at the tops of the Rocky Mountains.  Here is some basic information about this mammal.

Yet again, this is a mammal of the high mountains that I love.  I think that part of the reason I love Pikas and Marmots so much must be because of where they live.  These little mammals remind me of days I’ve spent hiking in the mountains, feeling exhausted, soaking up the sun and the amazing views.  Pikas are smaller than marmots and even harder to spot.

What Is A Pika?

This is a small, rodent like mammal.  They are generally less than 8 inches long.

A pika looks like a mixture between a rabbit, rat, and guinea pig.  In general they are gray brown.  It is also important to note that they have no visible tail!


Photo via Flickr.

7 Fun Facts About Pikas

They are herbivores, preferring to eat grasses and wildflowers.

They live in boulder fields high up in the mountains – ranging between 8,000 to 13,000 feet high.

Often times a Pika can be seen perched on top of a boulder where they make a loud call to claim their territory.  In fact, they are a very vocal animal.


Can you find the pika here? Photo via Flickr.

Most often they can be found by hearing their call.  If you watch a boulder field or scree slope and just listen for the call.  After hearing the call it is easier to narrow in on where the animal is actually located.


This guy has a mouthful of grasses to eat now or save for later. Photo via Flickr.

Unlike most other mammals that stay in the mountains all winter, they do not hibernate.  Instead they are awake underground in their dens all winter long.  During the summer the Pika will cut grass and lay it out in the sun to dry out.  After the grass dries out, it is then stored in the den to eat during the winter.

On average, they live 3-4 years, but they can live up to 7 years.

Of note – due to the fact that the Pikas live at high elevations they are being impacted by the warming temperatures of the planet.  As the climate warms most animals can just move to higher elevations, but Pikas can’t do that as they are already high up.  This means that they are facing hotter and hotter temperatures, which their bodies have a hard time coping with.