Pika Reproduction and Early Life
- Pikas can reproduce at 1 year old and usually live to 3-4 years old.
- Maximum age recorded for an American pika is 7 years old.
- Pikas do not mate for life.
- Females can carry 2 or 3 litters of babies (called leverets) each year, but it’s rare for more than one litter to survive. Survival depends on the winter's snowpack.
- Each litter includes about 3 leverets.
- Pikas mate for the first time in early spring (around April in most places), approximately 1 month before average snowmelt.
- Females gestate (are pregnant for) about 1 month and give birth under the rocks, where young stay for the first month of life.
- Leverets are born with a little fur, full teeth, and closed eyes. Their eyes don’t open until around their 9th day.
- By 1 month old, leverets are usually weaned and can be seen on the surface.
- Once leverets are old enough to eat on their own (1 month old), they must find their own territories either near their parents or in a new patch of rocks if all territories are filled by other pikas in their home patch.
- Most pika deaths happen in these early weeks of independence when they are trying to find a new territory.
- Usually juvenile pikas find a new territory within a mile (2 km) of where they were born.
- Some pikas have been known to travel over 1.8 miles (3 km) to find a new territory.
- Once a pika has found a territory in their first year, they remain in that territory for life. Only rarely do they move. It’s important to find a good spot!
- Pikas seem to look for 3 main things when they’re house hunting:
- - Good food – pika territories are more common near the edge of a rocky patch, close to a food source.
- - Good shelter – pika territories are usually found in areas where there is a range of rock sizes and crevices
- - A good view – pikas usually like to have a large rock in their territory that serves as a lookout location for predators or other pikas trespassing on their territory.