July Photo of the Month: The American Pika

August 13, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Photo of the Month

 

The last two weeks of July, I took a vacation to Glacier National Park, Banff and Jasper. It was an amazing trip and there was so many amazing things to see. This month I thought I would share one of my favorite pictures from the trip. While in the mountains,  I was able to find a few locations to sit and observe the American pika. For those not familiar with the pika; they are small, rodent like mammals that are closely related to rabbits and hares. They are only found in the alpine terrain, above the tree line in the talus rocky area high in the mountains. One of the unique behaviors of the pika, is that they spend the entire short summer collecting wildflowers and grass from the surrounding area. They lay out the grass to dry in the sun. Once it is dry, the “hay” is stored inside the den, deep among the rocks. During the winter months pika do not hibernate, that is why it is important to collect as many greens as they can. American pikas are often heard before they are seen. They make calls and sing to define and protect their territory, alert others to the presence of dangers and attract mates. The adaptations that have allowed this species to survive make pikas extra sensitive to the changes wrought by global warming. Rising temperatures threaten pikas by shortening the period available for them to gather food, changing the types of plants in the alpine meadows where they feed, shrinking the size of alpine meadows, and reducing insulating snow pack that protects them from cold snaps in the winter. Most directly, warming can also cause the animals to die from overheating.

The next time you are out in the alpine terrain take a moment to find these amazing creatures!

 

More to come on Glacier, Banff, and Jasper soon!!

 


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