Wildlife of the Week: American Pika

Listen for this animal’s high-pitched whistle


You can find pika’s resting in the rocky slopes of the Cascade and Rocky Mountains


In the rocky, talus slopes of the Cascades and Rocky Mountains, a small mammal called a pika finds its home among the boulders.

Slightly bigger than a softball, the American pika is a close relative to rabbits and is one of few mammals in its range that can live entirely in alpine habitats, according to the National Wildlife Federation. This means they can live above the tree line, where the landscape is brushed by high winds and smothered in several feet of snow in the winter.

On tall peaks, which include Mount Rainier, pikas find intricate pathways inside vast rocky slopes. They use the protection of large stones to store their food and keep warm. 

Pikas mostly get their water through plant consumption, which they do a lot of; individuals are often seen darting out of their rocky mazes to collect wildflowers and small weeds, according to the Center for Biological Diversity, They then return inside to eat or put them aside as a reserve for winter. 

In Washington, the easiest way to see these adorable animals is to drive the roads between Paradise and Sunset on Mount Rainier, and stop at the steep, rocky slopes to listen for the pika’s high-pitched whistle. 

In early autumn, you can even see pikas doing their food-collecting, stopping to munch on flowers or soak up warmth from the sun.