Species Spotlight: Collared Pika
Common name: Collared Pika
Latin name: Ochotona collaris
Status under SARA: Special Concern. The 2011 COSEWIC assessment designated the species under Special Concern.
Range: Yukon, Northwest Territories, British Columbia
Life Span: Around 4 years
Size: Weight is region dependent and can be anywhere from 117 g to 185 g.
Population estimate: Relatively unknown, although estimates suggest the Canadian population likely exceeds 10,000 mature individuals.
- The Collared Pika is a small and grey lagomorph. Lagomorph is an order of gnawing herbivores closely related to rodents which include pikas, rabbits and hares.
- Their common name comes from the pale patches on their napes and shoulders which form a partial collar around their neck. They are also known in some communities as “rock rabbits,” “whistling hare,” or “coonies”.
- The small level of genetic divergence between populations in Alaska and Yukon suggest the population expansion is relatively recent.
- Collared Pikas live in mountainous areas and commonly inhabit boulder fields found above tree lines and adjacent to alpine meadows.
- Collared Pikas, both male and female, may have multiple mates. Litters are typically of two or three offspring, though there have been reports of litters with up to six offspring.
- Pikas tend to be solitary and territorial, defending their territory by chasing and fighting intruders, scent marking through cheek rubbing, and calling. However, despite their hostility toward unfamiliar animals, neighbouring males and females tolerate one another.
The Collared Pika’s Canadian range is fairly remote and, as such, human activity has a minimal impact on the species. The main threat to the continued survival of the Collared Pika is climate change. The Collared Pika has already been extirpated in several areas over the last few decades due to changes in habitat conditions.
Climate change affects the pikas in a few key ways. The high-elevation, high-latitude areas where they are mainly found are witnessing shifts in habitat and temperature at faster rates than elsewhere in Canada. The changes in moisture and weather conditions resulting from climate change affect the pikas whose thermoregulation is not necessarily adapted to the new temperatures. Additionally, changes in freeze-thaw patterns affect food foraging and storage, which can greatly influence over-winter survival.
What’s Being Done
In Canada, approximately 78,000 km² of the Collared Pika range is contained in protected areas. They are found places such as Kluane National Park and Reserve, BC; Nahanni National Park Reserve, NWT; and Tatshenshini-Alsek Provincial Park, BC. Currently, the Collared Pika is listed as “Special Concern” according to both the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and the Species at Risk Act (SARA).
Hunting and trapping of the Collared Pika by non-Indigenous people is not allowed in Yukon or British Columbia and is not known to occur in the Northwest Territories.
What You Can Do
- Report a sighting: The B.C. Conservation Data Centre tracks at risk species. Use their online form to report any sightings with photographs or map coordinates, and report illegal activity.
- Support habitat conservation initiatives and advocate for protected areas.
- Do your part as an individual to mitigate climate change; make earth-friendly consumer choices to limit your greenhouse gas emissions.
Species at Risk Act Registry, SARA.
COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Collared Pika.
Thanks to Nature Canada volunteer Amanda Simard for contributing this profile.