Smaller mammals of the Denali, Alaska area: The American Pika

pika  pika 2

Blog #2 in our series of the smaller Denali area mammals deals with the American Pika.  The pika is a hamster-sized mammal related to  rabbits.  Adults are 6-8.5 inches long and weigh about 3.5 ounces.  They live in rocky terrain, hence the nick-name “Rock Rabbit.”  Pikas live in colonies and they bark to alert the group as to approaching danger.  They do not hibernate, instead caching food for the winter months.  They are herbivores.  They breed once or twice a year, between April and July and give birth to 2-5 totally helpless offspring, after a 30-day gestation period.  The young are weaned in about 18 days and reach maturity at 3 months.  A pika can live up to 7 years.  Major predators include eagles, hawks, fox and coyotes.  It is extremely sensitive to climate changes and there is some speculation that the pika may be one of the first to fall victim to global warming.  I had the pleasure of seeing a pika for the first (and only) time when hiking along the Savage River trail at Denali National Park.  The trail is bordered by large boulders and,  just like the picture above, the pika was sitting on top of a large rock.  It reminded me of a Chinchilla, its coat was so silky in appearance.


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