American pikas have short, round ears and a grayish to brown fur color. They are a smaller relative to rabbits and hares. These tiny animals generally feed on grass and herbs. Pikas are active during the daytime and do not hibernate in the winter. Since it is difficult to gather food in the winter, pikas cut, sun dry and store food that they find during the warmer seasons.
According to World Wildlife, pikas can be found in rocky areas called talus. They can be described as alpine regions. The alpine regions in Canada for these pikas are from southern British Columbia to southern Alberta.
In the U.S. they can be found in these states: Oregon, Washington, Colorado, Utah, California and New Mexico.
Since they are temperature sensitive, pikas' populations significantly increase as the elevation rises. In Canada, populations are seen from sea level to about 9,842 feet. However, in New Mexico and southern California, populations are generally not seen from 8,202 feet.
The small animals can sometimes be seen along the trails and roads of several national parks, such as Yosemite National Park, Yellowstone National Park and Craters of the Moon National Monument.
Pikas are very territorial of their land. They are colonized and each pika has a territory within their colony. The furry creatures tend to make their homes in cracks between rocks and in moist climates.
They are also very vocal. Pikas use their voices to communicate between one another and to warn other pikas when a predator is near. Their predators are eagles, hawks, bobcats, foxes and weasels.
Pikas can live six to seven years. Most pikas die after three or four years. The small animals are considered "ecosystem engineers" because of their extensive breeding season. They breed twice a year in the spring and summer. Their litters are born between May to August. Female pikas' gestation period is generally 30 days. Once born, young pikas cannot function independently and the mother has to take care of them. It takes three months for litters to grow into adults. After a year, these newly adult pikas can breed.
American pikas are considered to be on the verge of becoming the first mammals in North America to become extinct due to global warming. With the increase of heat-trapping emissions it has become difficult for pikas to adapt and survive.
In 2010, the Obama Administration did not approve placing the American pikas on the endangered species list. The thick coats that help pikas survive in the winter can end up killing them if the temperature rises above 77 degrees Fahrenheit.
Due to these climate changes, the pikas population, especially in the Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountains, has declined rapidly.
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