The main predators of pikas are:
Weasels are the primary predator of pikas. Their narrow, fast bodies make them faster and more coordinated on the rocks than a larger predator like a coyote.
- - Weasels
- - Coyotes
- - Birds of prey
WHERE DO PIKAS LIVE?
CLIMATE: WHY ARE PIKAS LIKE GOLDILOCKS?
- Pikas are habitat specialists, which means they can't live just anywhere.
- They live in the natural shelter found in the spaces between broken rocks in boulder fields, lava beds, and most commonly in places called talus slopes.
- Talus vs. scree: Talus and scree are both natural rocky areas in the mountains.
- Talus is bigger than scree. Scientists usually say that talus rocks are 7 inches or bigger, and scree is made up of rocks that are smaller than 7 inches.
- American pikas nearly always live in rocky places, but not all rocky places have pikas.
They can be TOO HOT
They can be TOO COLD
- Individuals have died due to heat stress when held at temperatures as low as 78˚F (25˚C)!
- As you’d expect given their bad reaction to heat, researchers have found that rocky habitats that get too hot in summer often can’t support populations of pikas.
- Pikas don’t seem to be able to handle really cold temperatures, either. Talus slopes that get colder than 14˚F (-10˚C) aren’t very likely to have pikas living in them.
- BUT HANG ON… Pikas live in really cold places! How does that work?
- - Usually snowpack protects pikas from really cold temperatures by insulating them from air temperatures in the winter.
- - The air gets colder than 14˚ in lots of places pikas live, but they are usually sheltered from those cold temperatures by a blanket of snow each year.
- In many places where pikas live, that blanket of snow is VERY deep – more than 6 feet thick! Pikas live in many ski areas throughout the West – imagine what skiing must sound like to the pikas under the snow!
Some places are JUST RIGHT (like high elevations in Colorado)
- In the inland mountain states like Montana and Colorado, American pikas mostly live near the tops of mountains, usually above 9,000 feet. They live in three different life zones:
- - They are most common in the alpine life zone, the highest part of the mountain. These mountain top regions are above tree line, the point where it’s too cold for trees to grow. Tree line is at ~10,000 feet in Montana, ~11,000 feet in Colorado, and ~12,000 feet in New Mexico. Plants in the alpine are usually small perennials (plants that grow back from their roots each year) because the climate is too harsh for them to grow too large.
- - Some pikas in Colorado live in the subalpine life zone, where small trees grow, but those trees are usually short and deformed because of wind and heavy snow.
- - A few pika populations are also found in Colorado’s montane life zone, where large pine, fir, and aspen trees grow.
- - Pikas also live along the West Coast of North America. In these areas, like Washington or Oregon, the climate at lower elevations is cool enough for them to live almost at sea level.