Friday, June 20, 2008

Colorado Pika

Ever been harassed a Pika (Ochotona princeps)? Don’t let their diminutive, guinea pig sized body fool you; these alpine dwelling rodents are feisty. Living in the nooks and crannies of rocks, they exhibit a shrill, piping cry whenever a hiker or dog nears their protective den. Related to rabbits and hares, they have short, rounded ears and no tail. I think they were put on earth to confound my dog’s, dare I say it, dog sized brain. With seemingly Machiavellian glee they shriek, peek, and hide giving my dog no end of grief. He knows something is up there in those sharp rocks. He can smell them, he can occasionally see them but he can’t get to them. The same thing goes for large predators. The Pika can taunt them too with relative impunity. Weasels and martins are another story. These flexible hunters can wiggle their way into the Pika’s rocky haven.

As the pictures in this post attest, Pikas eat greenery and will store up large mounds of verdant meadow grasses for the long winter. Since they shed their fur in both spring and fall, the Pika always looks a little scruffy. Still, with all those whiskers and rodent-ish gnawing on blades of grass who can resist these little terrors of the tundra?

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