American Pika Fact File

Ochotona princeps

Credit: Public Domain








Wild 7 years

Captive 7 years



Grass, Weeds, Leaves

Conservation Status


Least Concern

The Farmers of the Animal Kingdom!

American pikas spend their summer gathering up grasses which they will leave in the sun to dry. These gradually dry and can then be consumed during winter when food is in short supply.

These animals are herbivores and will feed on grasses, weeds, leaves and other plant matter.

Females can produce two litters of young each year. At birth they are helpless and blind. While they can live up to seven years old the average lifespan is three to four years old.

This species is acting as an indicator for the effects of climate change. As temperatures increase they are unable to survive.

Read on to learn more about these mountaineering mammals.


What does the American Pika look like?

These animals are covered by a short, thick coat which provides protection against the cold. Across their body this coat is varying shades of brown. Their coloration serves as camouflage in their environment.

Their legs are short. The ears are rounded.

At the end of the body is a long tail which is mostly contained within the long fur.

An average American pika will measure 12-30cm (4.75-12in) long with a weight of between 110 and 180g (4-6.25oz). They are the smallest member of the lagomorph group.


How does the American Pika survive in its habitat?

To ensure that they obtain the full nutrient value of their food they will eat their primary droppings a second time.

Their coat is colored shades of brown, white or black which helps to camouflage them among the rocks on which they live.

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What does the American Pika eat?

American Pikas are herbivores. They will feed on grass, forbs, sedge, weeds and leaves.

During late summer they will begin to collect what are referred to as ladders. These are stored in sunny locations where they dry to become hay. They appear to be able to determine which plants will decompose slowest so they last the longest.

Much of their water needs are met by their food.

Learn more about the American Pika in this video from CBS Docs on YouTube


Where do you find the American Pika?

North America is the native home of the American pika. Their range is mostly restricted to the West of the continent. Here they can be found in Canada and the United States.

In Canada they can be found in the following provinces - Alberta and British Columbia.

In the United States they can be found in the following states - Nevada, Oregon, New Mexico, California, Montana, Colorado, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Washington.


Where can the American Pika survive?

They are found in rocky areas at the top of mountains. This species is able to survive above the treeline. The North American pika will seek shelter under rocks. Records also exist of the species from log piles.

Within their territory they will maintain a foraging area and a den. Their den is formed within a burrow or rock.

Their territory is marked using glands on the cheeks.

American Pika (Ochotona princeps)

Credit: Public Domain


How does the American Pika produce its young?

Breeding takes place from late April to July. This takes place roughly a month before the snow will melt.

Between 2 and 4 young are born during summer. The female may produce 2 litters each year.

At birth the young are blind and helpless. The eyes open at nine days old.

At the end of the breeding season the females will chase their mate out of their territory and she also expels any mature offspring still remaining in their habitat.

Young leave their mother at four weeks old. Adult size is not achieved until 2 months old.

Sexual maturity is reached at 3 months old but most do not breed until their second summer.


What does the American Pika do during its day?

During the winter they will live alone and defend a territory. As spring begins the males will expand their territory to include that of neighboring females.

American pika are highly vocal and are often heard before they are seen. The call is high-pitched and squeaky. It can be used to attract a mate, protect their territory against intruders and alert other pika of dangers.

During spring and summer when temperatures become warmer they will concentrate their activity around dusk and dawn. In some regions they may even become partially nocturnal.

American Pika (Ochotona princeps)

Credit: Public Domain

Predators and Threats

What stops the American Pika from surviving and thriving?

Natural predators of the American pika include coyotes, bobcats, weasels, birds of prey such as eagles and stoats.

To alert others to the presence of a predator they will create bird-like cheeps or a far-carrying mew which asserts their claim over the territory.

Numbers of the American pika are declining in the wild. Most of these losses are driven by climate change and it is un-likely this could be easily reversed.

This species serves as an indicator for the ongoing effects of climate change. As temperatures increase animals at lower elevations are finding their habitat too warm to survive in.

In some parts of their range they may be affected by cattle grazing within their range.

Within some regions this species is sought out by ecotourists providing an economic benefit and incentivizing efforts to save them.

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Quick facts

Their genus name, Ochotona is taken from the Mongolian word for pika which is ochodona. Pika is taken from the name for the species used by the Tunguses tribe in northeast Siberia.

Alternative names for the pika include whistling hare, mouse hare, rock rabbit or cony.

The American pika has evolved from a Siberian species which historically crossed a bridge from Asia to Alaska.

American Pika (Ochotona princeps)

Credit: Public Domain


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ambrose, J., 2015. Wildlife Of The World. 1st ed. London: Dorling Kindersley

Jackson, T. and Chinery, M., 2012. The illustrated encyclopedia of animals of the world. London: Southwater. 2022. American pika. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 January 2022].

Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife. 2022. American pika. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 January 2022].

Oregon Wild. 2022. American Pika. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 January 2022]. 2022. American Pika - Ochotona princeps - NatureWorks. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 January 2022].

National Wildlife Federation. 2022. American Pika | National Wildlife Federation. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 January 2022]. 2022. Natural history. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 January 2022].

Smith, A.T. and Beever, E. 2016. Ochotona princepsThe IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41267A45184315. Accessed on 01 January 2022.

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