Did you know that American Pikas (Ochotona) are related to rabbits and hares? About the size of a large hamster, with short limbs, very round body, an even coat of fur, and no external tail, they resemble their close relative, the rabbit, but with short, rounded ears. A very vocal species, they use calls and song to define their territory, alert others to dangers, and attract mates.
Pikas live in colonies divided into individual territories that they actively defend. Their mating season is from April to July. They may breed twice a year depending on their location. The gestation period is thirty days long (one month). Pika’s will give birth to a litter of 2-5 young. The young are completely dependent on their mother for at least 18 days. The have a fast growth rate and reach adult size when they are only 3 months old. The female weans the young at 3 to 4 weeks after birth.
According to the National Wildlife Federation, American pikas lived throughout North America after crossing the land bridge from Asia to Alaska thousands of years ago. The species has since retreated to higher ground in favor of cooler climates. They now live in the highest parts of New Mexico, California, Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Western Canada, rarely seen below 8,200 feet in more southern territory.
Climate change has put the American pika in great danger. As the planet warms, many species shift their habitat toward the poles or higher up in the mountains to escape the heat; however, the pika is already an alpine-dwelling creature, and there is no higher territory for it to escape.
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