Tal-us About Pika, May 13

American pika
American Pika, courtesy of Dick Terpstra (public domain).
Species: American pika
Scientific Name: Ochotona princeps
Current Status: Imperiled but not listed on the Endangered Species Act
American pika, courtesy of Donald Hobern
American pika, courtesy of Donald Hobern (CC BY 2.0)

Pikas are small, rabbit-like animals that are well-adapted to cold temperatures. The American pika, quite aptly, lives mainly in the mountains of North America.

The American pika has adapted to an extremely narrow set of living conditions. During the winter it relies on snowpack for insulation from sub-freezing air temperatures, and during the summer it avoids overheating by resting in cool spaces found under the rocks in talus and boulder-fields.

These adaptations are great for thriving in environments that are harshly cold for most of the year, but they also make the American pika vulnerable to a warming climate. As climate changes, the American pika is threatened by reductions in snowpack and longer, warmer summers that might change the quality of their forage and reduce the amount of time they can spend foraging in the warmer temperatures above the rocks.


A huge thank you to our Tal-us About Pika partners:

Colorado Fourteeners Initiative logo
Walking Mountain Science Center Logo
Independence Pass Foundation logo
Colorado Mesa University logo
Mountain Studies Institute logo
Wilderness Workshop Logo
Sheep Mountain Alliance logo

Here are some things you can do to learn more about American pikas:


For Adults:

For Kids:


For Adults:

For Kids:


For Adults:

  • We had a Pika Power Hour and Ask Me Anything at noon with Jo Varner from Colorado Mesa University and Megan Mueller from Rocky Mountain Wild to discuss the species, its current status, and the citizen science projects that will help us protect this adorable species. Plus, they’ll answered all our participants burning pika-related questions. If you couldn’t make it, here is the recording of the Power Hour:
  • “How Climate Change Threatens Pikas,” from Science Friday (listen, 13 minutes)
  • “Meet Colorado’s Pikas” from Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (3 minutes)
  • “What Are Pikas Saying” from Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (2 minutes)
  • “Why Pika Population Are Declining” from Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (3 minutes)
  • “How Food Affects Pika Survival in Colorado’s Alpine Areas” from Colorado Fourteeners Initiative (2 minutes)

For Kids:

  • “Scientists in Action: Protecting Pika,” from the Denver Museum of Nature & Science (5 minutes)
  • “Pikas: Cute Animal, Serious Science,” from Science Podcast for Kids (listen, 17 minutes)

Check out our Colorado Endangered Species Week page for more days of activities!

Feel free to download our American pika card below! Simply right click and save.

Rocky Mountain Wild's Guide to Super Cool Species: American Pika card