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Meet the American pika, the Cascades’ rabbit-like whistler

American pikas are small, rabbit-like animals that live in rocky slopes at or above the treeline in the Cascade Mountains and the northeast part of Washington. While hikers might hear a pika’s high-pitched whistle, seeing one is less common.
American pikas are small, rabbit-like animals that live in rocky slopes at or above the treeline in the Cascade Mountains and the northeast part of Washington. While hikers might hear a pika’s high-pitched whistle, seeing one is less common. Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

American pikas (Ochotona princeps) are small animals with thick brown hair that live in rocky slopes at or above the treeline in the Cascade Mountains and the northeast part of the state. Reaching 6 to 8 inches in length and 6 ounces in weight, they are related to rabbits, but run instead of hop.

Hikers might hear a pika’s high-pitched whistle, but seeing one is less common.

Pikas live in rocky fields close to meadows and other vegetation to eat. During the summer, they spread grass on rocks to dry, then store it amongst the rocks for winter meals. Pikas don’t hibernate; they live in tunnels below the rocks and snow, which provides insulation from the cold.

Pikas prefer dry areas with cool temperatures, and can die quickly when the mercury tops 78. Environmental groups fear that climate change will harm pikas as higher temperatures limit their range and reduce the snowpack.

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