2 minute read

Pikas: Ochotonidae

Behavior And Reproduction

Pikas are mainly diurnal, active during the day. An exception is the steppe pika, which is nocturnal, meaning it is most active at night. They have several types of social structure. Those that live in rocky areas of North America are unsocial, with males and females having separate territories and rarely interacting except to mate. Pikas in rocky areas of Asia live in pairs within a communal territory. Burrowing pikas, in contrast, are extremely social animals. Families of up to thirty individuals live within burrows and there are about ten family groups within a territory. There is much interaction between family members, including grooming, playing, and sleeping together.

Pikas breed in the spring, with peak breeding occurring in May and early June. Female pikas reach sexual maturity as early as twenty-one days of age. The gestation, or pregnancy, period is about thirty days. Litters consist of one to thirteen babies and are cared for exclusively by the mother. Females breed for a second time shortly after the first litter is born and usually produce a second litter before the end of summer. Some pika species can have as many as five litters per years, including the Afghan pika, with each litter having up to eleven babies. Pikas are born blind and nearly hairless but grow quickly, reaching adult size in forty to fifty days.

Pikas have a keen sense of sight and hearing, which helps them detect predators, such as weasels, hawks, eagles, and owls. When a pika feels threatened, it issues a loud, shrill, alarm bark and nearby pikas immediately hide in their burrows or in rock crevices. The one exception is when a weasel is detected, the pika remains silent, since the small weasel can follow pikas into their hiding places. Pikas live an average of one to two years and more rarely, four to six years in the wild.


Many scientists believe the American pika will become the first mammal to become extinct due to the effects of global warming. The American pika lives in the high mountains of the western United States and Canada but as the climate gets warmer, the mammals are forced to move to higher elevations to find suitable habitats. A study between 1994 and 1999 in the Great Basin, eastern Sierra Nevada, and western Rocky Mountains found a 30 percent drop in the population of American pikas. Scientists believe the decline of the American pika should be a wake-up call about the consequences of global warming, which many blame on human pollution of the atmosphere.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsPikas: Ochotonidae - Behavior And Reproduction, American Pika (ochotona Princeps): Species Accounts, Northern Pika (ochotona Hyperborea): Species Accounts - PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS, GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, PIKAS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS