September 2, 2011

A Plethora of Pikas

On virtually every hike we've taken this week, there has been a plethora of pikas preparing for winter!  Their cute faces peer out from rocks everywhere you turn.

It’s been a good summer for pikas, one of the Rocky Mountain’s most unique creatures.  This diminutive member of the rabbit family — it looks like a hamster — inhabits rock piles in the high country.  They don’t hibernate, but remain active under the rocks and snow.  To survive, pikas collect grasses and leaves for winter food.  Studies estimate that a pika will make about 11-12,000 trips to amass their stash!

Like a farmer, the pika turns its harvest into “hay” by drying it out and storing it under large rocks.  Pikas are built for cold temperatures and this week, someone has turned a switch on the weather.  In one week we've gone from late summer to full-on fall.  Now that it has cooled down, pikas have become very active laying in their stores for the challenging winter to come.