The pika is one of the cutest animals on the planet. Unfortunately, pikas, like many other animals, are facing extinction as a result of climate change. Here are 8 adorable facts about pikas and why they’re in danger.
1. Pikas are rabbits
What do you think when looking at a pika? It looks like a hamster with a small body with rounded ears and a thick coat, right? And if it’s not a hamster, it would be related to chinchillas and be a member of the order Rodentia. But no, pikas are not rodents. The pika actually belongs to the order Lagomorpha which is also the order of rabbits and hares.
Although being related to rabbits and hares, the Pika has no common appearance with them. They don’t have long-pointing ears, visible tails, or strong back legs. These small creatures only have rounded short ears, tiny rear legs, and fur on their feet. They come with egg-shaped bodies with buffy colors.
Unlike the cousin brown hare which is about 20 and 30 inches long, the pika is just 7 to 8 inches long and weighs approximately 6 ounces, on average. The females are smaller than the males.
Their coat will differ depending on distinct species and seasons. Summer coats are typically grey to cinnamon brown, while winter coats are longer and grayer. Their lifespans are 6 – 7 years.
The pika is one of the cutest animals you can see. However, you can’t keep them as pets, these creatures don’t make good pets. If it’s too hot, they can die. So you have to keep an eye on them all the time.
Pika is one of the Cutest animals on Earth, you may find more adorable animals below:
There are about 29 pika species whose body proportions and attitudes are surprisingly consistent. Two of them live in the northern US (American pikas and collared pikas), the rest of them are found in Central Asia, mostly in China, primarily on the Tibetan plateau.
There are two distinctly different habitats of pikas: rocky habitat and meadow habitat. For the pika lives in steppe environments, they create burrows to live. On the other hand, those who locate in rocky habitats like American and collared pika dwell on the treeless slopes of mountains, which are highly rocky, cold, and dangerous.
You can see the cute pika on the meadow habitat on video below:
In north America, pikas are found from northern New Mexico to central British Columbia in the Rocky Mountains, in Washington, as well as in the Great Basin and the Sierra Nevada of California and the Cascade Range of Oregon.
Pikas typically have den and nest sites beneath rocks from 0.2 – 1 m in diameter, however, they frequently sit on larger and more visible boulders. They live in existing talus niches rather than digging tunnels. They can, however, expand their dwellings by burrowing.
The alpine tundra is extremely cold, that’s the reason why pikas have grown spherical fuzzy bodies. Their bodies have less surface area to get cold and are better at retaining heat.
With a height frequently greater than 11,000 feet; these cutest animals have ideal places and crevices to hide and keep food and raise the young safely. They don’t have to be afraid of being attacked by birds or other predators from the air or ground.
Rock residents usually live longer (about 7 years) and reside in low density, with stable numbers throughout time. Burrowing pikas, on the other hand, hardly survive more than a year, and their numbers can be 30 or more. The density of these dense populations varies greatly.
3. They are extremely territorial
The pika lives in colonies, close to each other to protect themselves from dangers. If they find out dangers or predators, they will notify the group by making a warning call. Pikas have many predators, such as cats, dogs, foxes, coyotes, and carnivorous birds…But the major predator of the pika is the weasel, which loves to snare vulnerable infant pikas.
These little cute animals create a high-pitched, squeaky noise that sounds more like lamb bleating. In any situation, they utilize their trademark sound to warn other members of the colony of an incoming predator, to set boundaries, and, in certain cases, to attract partners. To avoid being spotted, they can keep quiet while a weasel is nearby.
Besides the sounds, pikas also communicate through scent from their cheek glands. Those scents are produced by apocrine sweat glands through their cheek. Pikas spread their scent by rubbing their cheeks on rocks to define territories and attract possible partners.
Despite the fact that these adorable animals live in colonies, they are fiercely possessive over their nests and surrounding territories. They live separate lives and only connect to look for mates in breeding seasons.
However, this social behavior is just for the rock pikas.
Burrowing pikas live in family groups that inhabit and defend a common territory. They are often friendly inside the group. All pikas, regardless of age or gender, groom, touch noses, and sit next to each other. Only when an individual from one group intrudes on the other’s territory, there will be aggressive conflicts.
They have a far broader vocal range than rock pikas. Many of these calls indicate familial group stability, particularly among young from successive litters or between males and juniors. When predators are spotted, all pikas make short alarm sounds. During the mating season, males make a lengthy call or song.
4. Pika species
There are about 29 different Pika species, they are:
– American Pikas
– Plateau pikas, a.k.a black-lipped pikas, are small diurnal animals that do not hibernate.
– Collared pikas reside in boulder fields in central and southern Alaska and parts of Canada. It is Alaska’s only species of pika. Collared pikas are endangered because they are vulnerable to due to alpine shrub development and climate change.
– Northern pikas live in eastern Asia. Their habitat ranges from the Urals and the Putorana Plateau to northern Mongolia, Manchuria, North Korea, and Hokkaido, as well as eastern and southern Siberia, including Sakhalin Island.
– Ili pikas, often known as “magic rabbits,” reside at cool, high altitudes on China’s rugged rock cliffs. The species is considered endangered in China. Ili pikas are losing their habitats due to grazing livestock, global warming, and air pollution.
To avoid these dangers, the Ili pikas move to the to higher mountains, but they’re running out of space. It is believed that are fewer than 1,000 of those animals in the globe, making them rarer than the panda.
– The Black pika or Silver pika , is a new member in the pika family.
– Himalayan pikas, steppe pikas, Pallas’s pikas (Mongolian pikas), Turkestan red pikas, Koslov’s pikas,….
5. They eat a lot
Pikas are not dangerous animals. They are prey rather than predators. Pikas are herbivores. They eat mostly grasses, flowers, sedges, and fireweed which is a kind of plant in the alpine where they live. And like their rabbit cousins, pikas also consume their own feces to absorb energy and protein in there. Except for the nocturnal steppe pikas (O. pusilla), most pikas are active throughout the day.
The rock pika is active all year, they eat throughout the year even in winter when everything is frozen. They do not hibernate. To survives the harsh winter, they consume dried vegetation stored in haypiles. They sometimes steal from their neighbors to survive.
Pikas spend a portion of their day eating and storing food. They have two different foraging styles: eating what they find right away and haying (collecting and storing food). In the summer, these small animals gather vegetation in haypiles and then keep them in open areas or under rocks inside their region. If it rains, they will relocate them to another spot. During the difficult winter months, those haystacks will be used.
The pika can do up to 100 trips each day to store food for the winter. Like squirrels, they will keep enormous ‘caches” of food, but considerably larger. One of the most massive pika caches weighed about 61 pounds! This would take them 14,000 trips in 10 weeks, which is 25 trips per hour. For a creature that is less than a pound, that’s a lot of food.
Because of their small size and extremely fast metabolism, the pikas require a lot of food. Scientists revealed that they choose foods depending on their nutritional value, preferring those with more protein, calories, and fats than others. This is critical to their survival in the den in winter when they dig deep into the snow, where the dense snowpack functions as an insulator, keeping them warm.
Pikas begin mating about a month before the snow melts. Their breeding season lasts from April through July. Depending on where they live, they may reproduce twice or more in a year. Rock pikas typically have two litters every year, while burrowing ones might have numerous huge litters per year. The steppe pika can mate 5 times each year and have a litter of up to 13 offspring.
To attract and communicate with possible mates, they will sing their songs.
As monogamous animals, pikas only mate with one partner. The neighbors will seek mates from a neighboring region. Females will choose the one when there are multiple potential mates available.
Every year, Pikas will give birth to a litter of 2-5 young after a 30-day gestation period. However, only one litter frequently lives to the weaning period. Births typically begin in May and peak in June, but at lower elevations, they may begin earlier in March.
For at least 18 days after birth, the young are completely dependent on their mother. The mother doesn’t spend much time on her nest during the nursing period. She just returns every two hours or so to feed her offspring.
The young grow extremely quickly, and they are weaned after only a month and achieve adult size at the age of three months. After a year, those offspring can breed. The young will stay at the nest for a while. When resources run out, they will split up and create their own territory.
7. They have visible tails
The pika has a tail. You just can’t see it because its dense fur completely conceals it. It’s just too deep beneath that heavy coat to be seen. Compared to any other animals in the Lagomorpha order, the pika tail is the longest (when compared to body size). It surpasses the distinctive tails of rabbits and hares.
8. Pikas are endangered
The pika is at significant risk as a result of climate change. Many animals migrate their home to higher places to escape the heat; however, the pika is already an alpine critter with no higher territory to flee to.
They are sensitive to even brief periods of high temperatures (over 78 degrees Fahrenheit) and require a heavy snowpack to withstand the wintertime. Global climate change may endanger this species’ existence.
Climate-indicator Pikas play an important role in biodiversity. They help to recycle nutrients in the soil and provide food for predators. They also create microhabitats by enhancing plant diversity, and their burrows offer nesting sites for small reptiles and birds.
As a result, pika drop dead could have many long-term negative environmental implications and serve as a forerunner in projecting probable effects of climate change on animal and plant life.