Posted by: Loren Coleman on February 15th, 2009
The American pika (Ochotona princeps) is a relative of the rabbit and hare, in the order Lagomorpha. They formerly dotted the American West like a moving carpet of often-under-noticed little furry Munchkins.
One of the first things I remember being struck by, in 1961, when I read Ivan T. Sanderson’s classic book, Abominable Snowmen: Legend Come to Life, was how important pikas seemed to be as a food source for Sasquatch/Bigfoot and Yeti/Abominable Snowmen. Ivan liked to also call them “whistling hares,” in his mammalogy books, I recall.
When I was just beginning, at a young age reading about Yetis and building my backyard zoo, I thought about keeping pikas. But realistically, at some point, I had to deal with the fact I was in Illinois, and made due with raising herds of hamsters. (BTW, the hamster is an animal with a novel discovery history of its own, in which all golden hamster pets today are descended from the original female captured in 1930).
Pikas have remained in my consciousness for a long time.
It is interesting to look at some of the places pikas live, and see how they overlap with some of the locations of the traditional populations of unknown hominoids. These sites are often associated with the hairy bipeds, and include Afghanistan, Armenia, Bhutan, Burma, Canada, China, Himalayas, India, Iran, Japan, Kirghizistan, Mongolia, Mt. Everest, Nepal, North Korea, Pakistan, Pamirs, Russia, Siberia, Tadjikistan, Tibet, and the United States.
Pikas, weighing about a third of a pound, live in boulder fields surrounded by meadows on mountain peaks. They avoid the summer heat by seeking the cool crevices under the boulders and by remaining inactive during warm periods. Despite the long, snowy winters at high elevations, pikas do not hibernate.
These small mammals spend summers diligently gathering flowers and grasses and store them in “haypiles” for food to sustain them through the long winters. They must collect more than 60 pounds of vegetation to survive the winter.
Pikas are sprinkled throughout hominology books, just as they seem to run about the countryside.
Thus, when Robert Michael Pyle, a dozen years ago, made the laughable skeptical suggestion in his Where Bigfoot Walks: Crossing the Dark Divide that it “would certainly be easier [for Bigfoot] to catch a deep-sleeping woodchuck than a wide-awake pika,” I had to be amused. Of course, a constantly burrowing Bigfoot would be an intriguing creature to watch, but the vast numbers of surface-dwelling pikas are there for the take-home diners.
As Sanderson points out in his ABSM book, the “only reliable examination” of Yeti (Meh-teh) fecal material was conducted by Gerald Russell. Russell described it as having a form that was “generally humanoid” and contained: “A quantity of pika (Ochotona) fur; a quantity of pika bones (approx. 20); one feather, probably from a partridge chick; some grass, or other vegetable matter; one thorn; one large insect claw; three pika whiskers.”
Now comes news that the American pika (Ochotona princeps) will become the first mammal considered for protection under the Endangered Species Act in the continental United States outside of Alaska, due to population extinctions and shifts of their range caused by changing temperature intolerance.
The Center for Biological Diversity and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on February 12, 2009, reached a settlement agreement that will bring the American pika a step closer to receiving protections. The settlement requires the Service to assess whether the pika may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act by May 2009 and, if so, determine whether the small mammal will be designated as an endangered species nine months later.
The American pika is an animal whose squeaky calls are a familiar companion to alpine hikers. Pikas live in boulder fields near mountain peaks in the western United States. Adapted to cold alpine conditions, pikas are intolerant of high temperatures and can die from overheating when exposed to temperatures as low as 78 degrees Fahrenheit for just a few hours.
More than a third of documented pika populations in the Great Basin mountains of Nevada and Oregon have gone extinct in the past century, and those that remain are found an average of 900 feet further upslope.
Needless to say, if the pikas are changing their range, it may follow that animals that prey upon them, including Sasquatch, could be restricting and changing where they are to be found too.
“The pika’s shrinking habitat is a harbinger of what may happen to many species,” said Greg Loarie, an attorney with the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice, which represented the Center in the lawsuit. “With this settlement, we are hopeful that the new administration will take this issue seriously.”
The settlement comes in response to a lawsuit filed in August 2008 that challenged the Service’s failure to make a timely initial finding on a petition submitted by the Center in October 2007 to protect the American pika under the federal Endangered Species Act. When the lawsuit was filed, the Service had fallen nearly eight months behind the legal deadline to evaluate the petition and issue an initial decision on whether the pika’s protection is warranted.
In the above video, be patient and please take note, especially, of the good graphic of the map of the American West. Compare it to the known concentration of credible reports of Sasquatch.
The northern or collared pika (Ochotona collaris).
Here is a list of the known, extant pikas:
Family Ochotonidae: pikas
Subgenus Pika: northern pikas
Alpine Pika/Altai Pika, Ochotona alpina
Silver Pika, Ochotona argentata
Collared Pika, Ochotona collaris
Hoffmann’s Pika, Ochotona hoffmanni
Northern Pika/Siberian Pika, Ochotona hyperborea
Pallas’s Pika, Ochotona pallasi
American Pika, Ochotona princeps
Turuchan Pika, Ochotona turuchanensis
Subgenus Ochotona: shrub-steppe pikas
Gansu Pika/Gray Pika, Ochotona cansus
Plateau Pika/Black-lipped Pika, Ochotona curzoniae
Daurian Pika, Ochotona dauurica
Tsing-ling Pika, Ochotona huangensis
Nubra Pika, Ochotona nubrica
Steppe Pika, Ochotona pusilla
Afghan Pika, Ochotona rufescens
Moupin Pika, Ochotona thibetana
Thomas’s Pika, Ochotona thomasi
Subgenus Conothoa: mountain pikas
Chinese Red Pika, Ochotona erythrotis
Forrest’s Pika, Ochotona forresti
Gaoligong Pika, Ochotona gaoligongensis
Glover’s Pika, Ochotona gloveri
Himalayan Pika, Ochotona himalayana
Ili Pika, Ochotona iliensis
Kozlov’s Pika, Ochotona koslowi
Ladak Pika, Ochotona ladacensis
Large-eared Pika, Ochotona macrotis
Muli Pika, Ochotona muliensis
Black Pika, Ochotona nigritia
Royle’s Pika, Ochotona roylei
Turkestan Red Pika, Ochotona rutila
You will find pikas and other small rodents are important to my background sense of unknown hairy hominoids’ diets in my books, including Bigfoot! The True Story of Apes in America, Tom Slick: True Life Adventures in Cryptozoology, and The Field Guide to Bigfoot and Other Mystery Primates. The pikas are always there.
Pallas’s Pika, Ochotona pallasi, from the southern Siberian mountains.