Other Mammals - Sounds Wild


Download Episode: Pika (MP3 file 1,405 kB)



The shrill whistle of a pika carries across a talus slope in Interior Alaska. Another pika answers. Pikas are small mammals, not much bigger than a softball. They behave a bit like marmots, scurrying around rock piles and ducking into crevices, but they are related to rabbits, and look like a cross between a rabbit and a little Guinea pig.

Pikas prefer cold climates. In the Lower 48 they are found at high elevations, and pikas in the Himalayas live at higher elevations than almost any animal on Earth, at elevations close to 20,000 feet above sea level. Pikas live in rock piles and talus slopes, finding shelter in the cracks and crevices. Their entire home range is typically just 100 feet or so in size.

Pikas have an interesting behavior - they harvest grasses, flowers, leaves and green plants in the summer and spread the vegetation out on rocks to dry in the sun. They guard their hay piles, because other pikas will steal them. Like squirrels and beavers, they spend the summer months gathering food to store for winter. They do not hibernate, and are active under the rocks all winter, living on their cache of stored food.

Pikas call in the spring to attract a mate. Like marmots, they call as a warning that a predator is about. They also call back and forth in defense of their hay piles and caches.