Approximately the size of a small guinea pig, pikas are sandy brown with rounded ears. Unlike many other small mammals in the area, pikas – members of the rabbit family – don’t hibernate. They spend the summers collecting plenty of grasses and flowers to sustain them through the cold winter months. Because they’re sensitive to heat, pikas tend to live at higher elevations and prefer to be active during the cooler times of day.
Pikas breed in spring and typically have two litters. They make short beeping sounds to announce their territory and to warn colony members of potential danger. They mark their territories by rubbing their cheeks and leaving scent on rocks in their territories. When other pikas intrude on their territory, they will stand on their hind legs and box each other.
Pikas’ preference for cooler temperatures makes them particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. As winters grow shorter, and summers grow longer and hotter, critical alpine habitat is diminishing. Some areas are becoming uninhabitable due to changing temperatures, and others no longer contain sufficient food. Because of these challenges, the future is uncertain for pikas.