Meet the Pika


Meet the Pika

The pika is a small, rabbitlike animal that belongs to the order Lagomorpha (hare-shaped), to which hares and rabbits belong. In some areas it is known as the rock rabbit or cony. About the size and shape of a guinea pig, the pika’s hind legs are no longer than its front legs, unlike those of rabbits. It runs instead of hopping, and its hair-soled feet give it excellent traction on rocks.

The pika lives in rockslides and rocky slopes of mountains at or above the timberline in western North America, Asia, and parts of Europe. If you are in pika county, the first sign that one is around will probably be one or a series of squeaks. Look around carefully and you may see a pika scurrying over the rocks or sitting motionless, its grayish brown coat blending in with the rocky surroundings.

The pika does not hibernate in winter, but lives on stores of “hay” that it diligently harvests during the brief summer growing season. Pikas store various grasses, weeds, and shrubs in protected places under rocks near their dens. There, in the warm sun and dry air of the mountains, the hay is cured. No wonder this interesting animal is called Little Haymaker.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Dick Brown