WALKING ON THE WILD SIDE
Salad For Dinner
Pika (Ochotona daurica)
One of my favorite animals that lives in the high country above tree line is the Pika. These cute fuzzy critters are full of energy and just down right adorable. They are often mistaken as rodents but actually hail from the same family as a common household pet, the rabbit. If you look closely you will pick up on the resemblance in the body shape, although the ears are short and round compared to the rabbits and they have no visible tail.
Like their cousins, the Pika is an herbivore which means they love their veggies. Because they live among the talus fields of the Alpine region year round their survival depends upon their ability to gather large amounts of food to dry and stash near their dens for the long harsh winters. While their coloration helps them blend in with the background, one can often find them when they run across the rocks with a mouth full of grass, weeds or even flowers. The movement will draw your eyes , and if you listen carefully you will hear their high pitched squeaks which lets you know they are present.
See why they are so adorable? While we humans find this cute, among Pikas their calls are used to define and protect their territory or alert others of danger. Life is harsh above tree line therefore the need to protect themselves and the resources necessary to survive.
So do not be fooled by their cuddly appearance and please always be careful around all wild animals as they will defend against any perceived threat. Witness this video where I was once “attacked” by a Pika while standing on a boulder among the talus field. Okay, maybe attacked is an exaggeration, but you get the point.
Special Note - I did not stage this video. I do not lure animals with scents or food. I just stopped to take pictures of the Pika as it darted in and out among the rocks. Out of respect I quickly moved on to not disturb the Pika further with my presence after this encounter.
Many Pika pictures have been captured on my journeys in to the alpine country, but my limited edition print “Salad for Dinner” is one of my favorites because it captures the essence of this wild animal in spades.
Do you have a favorite Alpine animal? If so, leave a comment.
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www.leaf-images.com | Lea Frye, Wildlife Photographer | Helena, MT
Wild Animals / Wild Landscapes