When hiking in the alpine zone, it is a pleasure to hear a sharp chirp – the call of an American pika (Ochotona princeps). These lovely animals inhabit the talus slopes and rock outcrops at the very highest elevations. Surprisingly they do not hibernate but rather stay active through the winter by relying on stored grasses they hay during the summer. Usually pikas are skittish and tend to avoid people – but today I chanced to see one performing a salt-licking behavior in a crevice at West Maroon Pass in the Maroon Bells / Snowmass wilderness.
Pikas are thoroughly adorable – here is a video of the same animal.
Unfortunately the pika is at high risk of extinction because of climate change – as alpine regions become warmer, suitable habitat will become smaller, and may eventually disappear. Learn more from a publication in Global Change Biology here.
Last chance to see…