Collared Pika

Collared Pika.
Credit: Ryan Agar

 

Name

  • Common name: Collared Pika
  • Scientific name: Ochotona collaris
  • Order: Lagomorpha
  • Family: Ochotonidae

Also known as

Coney, Rock Rabbit, Whistling Hare

Viewing opportunities

  • Collared Pikas live in rock talus patches high in the alpine.
  • They can be easily found because of their alarm call that carries across the alpine when you walk by. Although they are heard, they are not necessarily easy to see as they camouflage perfectly among the rocks. Hone in on the call and watch for movement among the rocks, or a silhouette of the pika against the sky.
  • Once near its home territory, you may find that the pika will approach within a few metres, if you are able to remain nearly motionless and quiet for a few minutes.
  • In late summer and fall, look for conspicuous collections of plants, called ‘hay piles’ among the rocks. Pikas build hay piles for winter food.

Report sightings of Collared Pika

The Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) has assessed Collared Pika as a species of Special Concern. Voluntarily report your observations to the Yukon Conservation Data Centre.

Read the Protocol for detecting Collared Pika.

Description

  • Small chubby body with short limbs and rounded ears.
  • Grey fur and mouse-like in appearance.
  • Inconspicuous bobbed tail, long whiskers.

Fast facts

  • Length: 15 to 20 cm
  • Weight: 160 g
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Predators: Hawks, owls, bears, Ermine
  • Habitat: Alpine tundra

Conservation status

What is conservation status?

  • Yukon: S3 (Vulnerable)
  • Global: G5 (Secure)

Yukon population estimate

Not determined.

Behaviour

Collared Pikas spend the summer months raising young and collecting plants into hay piles among the rocks to save for the winter. They do not hibernate and so must have a food supply on hand to survive the cold months. They are solitary creatures preferring to stay 20 to 75 metres away from their neighbours. The pikas call is a loud, distinctive “meeeep” and they use it to declare their territories.

Diet

Leaves of Mountain Avens, lupines, vetches, grasses and shrubs.

Distribution

Collared Pika distribution map

Sights and sounds

Pika track, front.
Pika track, front: 1.9 x 1.5 cm.

Pika track, hind.
Pika track, hind: 2.5 x 1.9 cm.
Haypile.
Haypile. Credit: K. O’Donovan.
Scat pellets.
Scat pellets, 0.3 cm.

Pika and people

  • For the Southern Tutchone people, it was considered bad luck to bother a pika as it would bring about foul weather.
  • Pikas are not trapped for their skins or meat, and direct disturbance on pikas is minimal due to the remote nature of their habitat.
  • The greatest threat to pikas is the effect from climate warming. Pikas survive best under cool and dry conditions, and climatic extremes such as high summer temperatures, or wet and cold winters, may reduce their survival. Loss of alpine habitat to tree and shrub encroachment may also reduce suitable habitat for pikas.