Friday, February 25, 2011

Pika! Pika!


Pikas (Ochotona princeps) have been a favorite animal of mine for a long time. I dunno how I haven't dedicated a blog entry (or few) to them yet, what was I thinking!? I first remember seeing a pika in the Tetons (Wyoming) in 2007. There were a few by my campsite and this caused me to be overcome with excitement. (there was also a chipmunk who jumped into an empty cooking pot and a moose nearby. Cool stuff).
The one shown here is from the Ruby Mountains in Northern Nevada (one of my favorite places). There were quite a few pikas around- I saw at least 9 of them and heard more than that. Holy pika overstimulation!
(fresh food cache above) So. Pikas. They're not the easiest animal to see. In the US, they live in a variety of Western states at pretty high elevations (generally 8,000 feet or more) on rocky slopes near those excellent mountain lakes. They have pretty sweet homes. Unfortunately, they can't tolerate high temperatures well, and have been greatly affected by climate change. That sucks.
(above: doing the pika scream, below: Pika habitat)
Whenever I'm hiking in the mountains I keep an ear out for their adorable and recognizable scream. The first time I heard it I had no idea what it was - took me hours to figure it out. But when I did I just smiled. Side note: I can do an uncanny pika vocalization.
They're pretty social little buggers but also extremely territorial. They spend their days collecting flowers and vegetation and shoving it under rocks, creating some pretty serious food caches. They let it dry and when it's done drying, they'll move it inside to their little humble abode and snarf it up during the winter months. (below: carrying a root of some sort to his cache)
If you haven't seen a pika scramble over rocks with a mouthful of green stuff, you haven't lived ! It is seriously one of the cutest things I have ever seen in the wild.
(Pika land above)
The American Pika needs to be on the endangered list, but that excellent government of ours decided to be the asses they usually are and not list it. This has been going on since 2007 I think- looks like California is going to give it a go this year again. Keep your fingers crossed and petitions signed cause this little friend needs all the help he can get. Camera Critters SOOC My World

46 comments:

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

I was thinking I had read about a decline in their population and therein you mentioned it. I haven't seen the numbers as you have, probably since I avoid high altitude and cold temps as much as I can. Great post about these cute little guys. Were most of these shots with your zoom out to 500mm?

Inger-M said...

Those little guys are really the cutest! I have never heard of them before, so thanks for posting. Sorry they are endangered.

Elizabeth said...

I saw my first pika while hiking in Cottonwood Canyons in Salt Lake City. My first thoughts were, "What is that creature and why are his ears so big?" If you're ever in SLC I can show you where the pikas live.

Don't Bug Me! said...

I want one!

Michael said...

They are great little critters. Love their ears.

Friend of HK said...

Adorable little creatures!

texwisgirl said...

I remember reading a fable as a child about how the Pika was gathering green grass for dinner and was scared by a predator and dropped the grass on a rock. The next day it returned to find it had dried into hay. Thus it picked it up and took it home to store it for later months. :) I'm not sure if it was Aesop's, but it was one of my favorite stories! They are adorable!

Marka said...

Great photographs of a wonderful little critter!

Mary Howell Cromer said...

Oh My Goodness Jill, every time you share Pika images, my heart is warmed by their precious faces, their little ears and those sweet faces. I truly would love to get to view some of these one day for myself. These images are all brilliant, love them all!!!

Gaelyn said...

Sure are cute. I have only seen them at Mt St Helena and Brian's Head.

biobabbler said...

If you've not seen this yet, mvz.berkeley.edu/Grinnell/pdf/2007_Yosemite_report.pdf is the COOLEST thing ever: a re-survey (2003-2006) of a huge survey Grinnel did in Yosemite 1911-1920.

Re: pikas: (p. 36)

"The most likely cause of contractions of the high elevation species and at least some of the upwards expansions of formerly lower elevation taxa, is effect of increased temperatures (Parmesan, 2006). The mean increase in lower and upper limits of 500 - 600m is roughly as expected given with the observed climate change of +3 C and assuming that species ranges are limited primarily by physiology. For at least one species, O. princeps [pika!], the changes observed for Yosemite are reflected by range retractions elsewhere in the range (Beever et al., 2003; Grayson, 2000) and have also been attributed to increased temperatures." Poor babies! =(

Janie said...

They are adorable little critters. We see and/or hear them in the Utah mountains sometimes, but I've never gotten a photo of one.
I agree, our government has done a poor job of protecting endangered species. I hope the pika gets the help it deserves.

Arija said...

They are the cutest and look so unreal, like illustrations from a children's book!

What magic you encounter and capture as well!

Arija said...

Just had to come back for another drool over cuteness personified.

Gary said...

Great series on an interesting animal!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

John S. Mead said...

love Pikas.... they are like nature's smoke detectors that need a bew battery with their chirps! Great images ofthem... you must have made yourself nearly invisible or had a 10000000 mm lens for some of these ;-)

ladyfi said...

What an adorable creature... love those big ears!

Steve Borichevsky said...

I have seen pika in Colorado! You are absolutely right. One of the most under-appreciated critters on the planet.

Jane said...

What a sweetie, He looks like a large Mouse, interesting Rodent.

Perry said...

Very well captured! the little guy is quite the camera ham! Thanks for sharing! Here is my entry.

Martha Z said...

Great post, Jill. I love these little guys too. Since we spend much of the summer at almost
10,000' in the Sierra I ofter hear them and sometime see them scampering over the rocks. There seemed to be more of them last summer than I had seen for several years.

Crafty Green Poet said...

oh they are so cute, i hope they get the protection they deserve and I hope we can stop climate change getting worse in time to help them

Greyscale Territory said...

These little characters are so adorable! They look like a cross between a rabbit and a squirrel! Love them!

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

They are very cute little critters and you captured them wonderfully as usual!

Leovi said...

Beautiful photos of Pikas, is a very clever animal. You must have been very quiet in order to capture such beautiful images.

Woody said...

They're really cute mice. Thanks for the info, I was not aware they live at such high elevations.

Jan n Jer said...

They are so cute...for a rodent!!! I say my first ones on the way up to the top of Pikes Peak In colorado.

Cildemer said...

So cute! I didn't know about those little guys!
Thanks for sharing your beautiful shots and information;o)

***
Have a happy weekend****

Teresa said...

I'd never heard of these cute little creatures. I hope that they do get the protection it sounds like they need. Your photos are amazing.

Denise said...

I can understand why you like this little fellow so much. Beautiful! Hopefully one day I will get to see one myself.

bracomfotografie said...

Thanks for the visit and kind comment

Beautiful series, very nice photos

BJ Roan said...

I've never hear of a pika before. They sure are cute. They pose for the camera, too. Great shots!

Wren said...

An embarrassment of cuteness. Each time I thought I'd seen the ultimate photo in that regard, I was forced to reconsider.

It's hard to believe there would be resistance to saving these little guys as a species, but that's the world we live in.

Sylvia K said...

Absolutely adorable! I've never seen one and I'm sorry for that! Next best thing is your photos, Jill! Thanks!! Have a great week!

Sylvia

Eve said...

Oh my goodness... they are so incredibly sweet looking!! I've seen them before, but only in motion, so it was especially fun to see your close ups of them. What an incredibly beautiful location - that blue, blue water looks wonderful!

ewok1993 said...

I've never heard of them until now but I'll sign a petition. I want to see one in person. Lucky you and thanks for this post. Truly illuminating and educational.

ewok1993 said...

I've never heard of them until now but I'll sign a petition. I want to see one in person. Lucky you and thanks for this post. Truly illuminating and educational.

ros@dimaggio63 said...

Meraviglioso....

gemini said...

I can hug them forever.

Joyful said...

I've never heard of a pika before. They are cute and your photos are great.

Stewart M said...

What a great little animal - and a great set of shots.

Stewart M - Australia

jason said...

That is too cute for words! What an adorable little critter. Your photos are gorgeous, Jill. You really captured the awesome cuteness.

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