American Pika

One of the reasons I stayed in Breckenridge when I came back out west was to make another visit to Rocky Mountain National Park to wrap up two “loose ends” from when I was there last year. One of my goals was to see a pika (pronounced PIE-ka). This is a small animal, similar to a rabbit, which only lives at high elevations. Last year I was told by my Airbnb host in Fort Collins to go to the Alpine Visitor Center in the Park and I’d see lots of them….

Well, due to various circumstances (like the Park deciding to close the parking lot to paint new lines 2 weeks BEFORE Labor Day!) I was never able to get there to see a pika. I have seen what I thought were pikas on two other occasions, only to get back to the house, download my photos, and discover I had been carefully stalking chipmunks.

Before heading up to the Park this year I looked at their website and found that the road through the Park was only open 10 miles in from the west and 12 miles in from the east. So – still no pikas for JohnBoy. By the way, Estes Park, outside the east entrance to the Park was forecast to get 8-18 inches of snow the day after I left Breckenridge to drive down to Colorado Springs, so after that event the Park roads were probably totally closed!

Here, thanks to the miracle of the internet, I present the elusive pika – as seen through the camera lens of others.

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(Photo credit: a-z-animals.com)

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(Photo credit: David Kingham)

While it looks like it is yawning, this pika is actually whistling to alert others in the area of a potential threat.

Pikas are only found in alpine environments above 10,000 feet and are so sensitive to temperature that they will die if they are exposed to temperatures above 78 degrees Fahrenheit. They are thought to be a harbinger of the effects of global warming. A group of pikas which used to live in Yosemite in California have vanished, apparently killed off by rising temperatures there.