Yesterday afternoon and into the evening, I was on a family hiking trip as opposed to a serious photography trip to the Northern Cascades near the Washington/British Columbia border where I ran into a colony of American pikas on a subalpine hillside near Cascade Pass. Having seen one the week before on Mount Rainier and missing the shot, I was very happy I at least brought some of my gear with me on this trip and was able to get this adorable pika on camera.

American Pika

American Pika

~ click to enlarge ~

Pikas are a member of the rabbit and hare order (Lagomorpha), and are therefore not technically a rodent, even though at first glance they can resemble a ground squirrel. These active and noisy mammals live in colonies high in the mountains near subalpine meadows and grasslands where food is plentiful, and they can busily fill their larders during the short summer for the long winter. Because they do not hibernate, most of their time is spent gathering different plants, grasses and wildflowers to sustain them for most of the year where they live in their rocky dens under the snow.

Pikas are one mammal I’m not familiar with, and because after 25 months of living in the Pacific Northwest I’m starting to develop a solid understanding of what I do know and what I don’t yet know about the ecology, environment and terrain of this part of the country and continent. Each and every outing is an invaluable learning experience and each time I get familiar with a new plant, animal, rock formation, etc., another piece of the story falls into place. Today as I write this, I realize I don’t have enough personal experience with these unusual animals (besides knowing they are extremely loud and their calls carry very far along the lonely subalpine meadows, and in my research, I found a great video narrated by none other that Sir David Attenbourrough himself! Enjoy!

 
Rich Leighton
August 20, 2013 

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