The Dereila Nature Inn - a cyber nature centre for nature lovers
#5 - The American Pika
If you’re walking in the wild in the high alpine areas of the mountains of western North America and
hear a high-pitched
squeak, you’re probably close to an American Pika, Ochotona princeps.
American Pika on a rock
The The American Pika (pronounced
pee-ka) is a small, rodent-like mammal, closely related to hares.  From a distance, it is sometimes difficult to tell whether you’re watching a pika watching you, or a pika-sized rock. 

With an amazing ability to throw its voice, it is often hard to even know where the pika is. You may not see a pika, but you will certainly hear one if one's close by.
Pikas have rounded ears, a grayish-brownish, 7 inches (18 cm) long body, no tail and weigh 6–8 oz (170-225 gm).  Their front and back legs are the same size so they tend to scurry about the rocky mountainside slopes which they inhabit, rather than hop.  They live in groups in high elevations, usually above the tree line.
American Pika
American Pika
Since it is active by day, hikers often encounter this fascinating animal as it spends much of the long summer days collecting grasses and food which it stores away for the winter.  Despite living in a very harsh, high-alpine environment, the American Pika doesn't hibernate, but spends the winter under the rocks and snow, protected from the severe conditions above.
American Pika having a snack
Once the snows arrive, the pika rarely ventures out, but digs tunnels to find food under the snow or feeds on the grasses and plants it has carefully gathered and stored during warmer days.
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