American Pika (Ochotona princeps)

Pika Facts

  • Pikas are small mammals related to rabbits
  • Pikas live in boulder fields surrounded by meadows on mountain peaks. They avoid the summer heat by seeking the cool crevices under the boulders and by remaining inactive during warm periods.
  • Despite the long, cold, snowy winters at high elevations, pikas do not hibernate.
  • Pikas spend summers diligently gathering flowers and grasses and storing them in “haypiles” for food to American Pika, courtesy Earthjusticesustain them through the long winters.
  • Pika weigh only a third of a pound, and must collect more than 60 pounds of vegetation to survive the winter.
  • Global warming threatens pikas by shortening the time available for them to gather food, changing the types of plants that grow where they live, reducing the insulating snowpack during winter, and, most directly, causing the animals to die from overheating.


Watch: Interview with Forest Service research ecologist Connie Millar. Millar's research indicates that pika may be more resilient and adaptable than previously thought. New populations of the species have recently been found in the periphery of its known range in Nevada and elsewhere in the Great Basin in locations that are both lower in elevation and warmer than the norm for pika.

Watch: Pika and restoration: Connie Millar, USFS, and USGS' Erik Beever

Petition to list the pika as threatened under the Endangered Species Act

2009 Press Release from the Center for Biological Diversity

For further information visit CBD pika website.

Legal Documents:
Read a copy of the petition filed in state court

Read a copy of the complaint filed in federal court

February 5, 2010

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that endangered species listing under the federal Endangered Species Act is not warranted for the American pika. Although acknowledging that the pika is potentially vulnerable to the effects of climate change in portions of its range, the agency interpreted recent scientific evidence as an indication that pikas will probably be able to survive despite warmer temperatures. Link here to the 12-month petition finding by the agency.

May 22, 2013

The California Fish and Game Commission also voted to deny protection to the American pika under the state ESA. Stating "Based on projections of future habitat suitability for the American pika in California, the Department considers future impacts of projected climate change to be a potentially serious threat to the continued existence of the American pika in California by the end of the century," the agency nevertheless did not conclude that the present threats to pika warrant listing the species. See the status review here.


Scientific Research

Jeffress, Mackenzie R.; Van Gunst, K. Jane; Millar, Constance I. 2017. A surprising discovery of American pika sites in the northwest Great Basin. Western North American Naturalist 77(2), © 2017, pp. 252–268.

Millar, Constance I. 2011. Influence of domestic livestock grazing on American Pika (Ochotona princeps) forage and haypiling behavior in the Great Basin. Western North American Naturalist 71(3): 425–430.

Millar, Constance I.; Delany, Diane L.; Hersey, Kimberly A.; Jeffress, Mackenzie R.; Smith, Andrew T.; Van Gunst, K. Jane; Westfall, Robert D. 2018. Distribution, climatic relationships, and status of American pikas (Ochotona princeps) in the Great Basin, USA. AAAR, 50(1):19 pages.

Millar, Constance I.; Westfall, Robert D.; Delany, Diane L. 2013. New records of marginal locations for American pika (Ochotona princeps) in the Western Great Basin. Western North American Naturalist 73(4): 457-476.

Millar, Constance I.; Westfall, Robert D.; Delany, Diane L. 2016. Thermal components of American pika habitat—How does a small lagomorph encounter climate? Arctic, Antarctic, and Alpine Research. 48(2): 327–343.

Millar, Constance; Hickman, Kenneth T. 2021. Camera traps provide insights into American pika site occupancy, behavior, thermal relations, and associated wildlife diversity. Western North American Naturalist 81(2):141–170.

Smith, A. T., and M. L. Weston. 1990. Ochotona princeps. Mammalian Species, No. 352, pp 1-8.

Smith, Andrew T.; Nagy, John D.; Millar, Connie. 2016. Behavioral ecology of American Pikas (Ochotona princeps) at Mono Craters, California: living on the edge. Western North American Naturalist 76(4): 459-484.

Smith, Andrew T. 2020. Conservation status of American pikas (Ochotona princeps), Journal of Mammalogy 1101(6):1466-1488.

Smith, Andrew T.; Millar, Constance I. 2018. American pika (Ochotona princeps) population survival in winters with low or no snowpack. Western North American Naturalist 78(2): 126-132.


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