Pika Watch: 2022


A pika with a mouthful of leafy branches

We are fortunate to have a population of pika in Horse Barn Valley and we may have some in other corners of the Nature Park. These furry little rock rabbits are particularly sensitive to warm temperatures and are disappearing from some of their previous habitat in American national parks in the Rocky Mountains. In other locations, they are surviving at higher altitudes where their green feed is less plentiful.

A pika stash under a rock

Pikas are obviously very difficult to count, but they do leave very visible clues as they annually establish food caches under overhanging rocks. They do not hibernate and depend on their stored food for winter survival. Kimberley Nature Park Society has been conducting a very informal count of the visible food stashes among the rocks along the eastern side of the Tora Bora valley for three years now.

In 2020, a single counter noted 16 stashes, then with two other helpers in the fall of 2021, after a very hot summer, we counted 24 stashes. On October 2, 2022, the same three volunteers covered the same area of Rockslide and came up with a count of 28 stashes.

Three people in outdoor clothes smile at the camera
The 2022 Pika Stash counters were Struan Robertson, Eve Boehringer, and Will Warnock

We are delighted to have found a similar number of these storage piles and to know that we do still have a pika population in that area. We may have pika established in other parts of the Nature Park. If you find a tuft of grass, ferns, and leaves sticking out from underneath a large boulder or even stashed under a fallen tree trunk, please make note of the location and call Struan Robertson (250-427-5048).

A pika stash under rocks

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