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Rodent Pets – The American Pika (Ochotona Princeps)

 

The American pika (Ochotona princeps) lives in cold climates at high altitudes on mountain slopes, where there are many broken and piled rocks, surrounded by alpine meadows and dwarf grasses in southwestern Canada and the western U.S.. This species has adapted well to rocky habitats, where they dig burrows and are able to hide from predators. Although they prefer areas with rocks, sometimes they make their nest in the roots of trees or under fallen logs.

These animals live in colonies made up of dozens and sometimes hundreds of copies – living on just a few hundred meters. In an emergency case they raise the alarm, which sounds like whistling or twittering. They are active mostly during the day while at sunset and in the night they are resting among the rocks and tree trunks. In winter they do not hibernate, but eat hay, gathering piles of dry grass and then storing it in places of shelter among the rocks, where they are sheltered from the wind. Often they steal these piles of dried plants from each other, giving rise to violent altercations. As herbivorous animals, their food consists mainly of various herbs and plants, moss, leaves, lichens and shrubs.

The American pike resembles a hamster but is larger, having a body length of 16-22 cm and a weight of 125-175 g; the body is covered in the warm season with a fur in shades of brown, gray and red, but in the winter the color is gray-white. It has shorter rounder ears than the common rabbit, while the fur is lined on both sides. The eyes are large and round, with black irises, while the tail is very small, as a stump, shorter than 2 cm, being almost invisible from the outside. The muzzle is small, while the teeth on the upper jaw are very broad and can cause a deep bite; those of the lower jaw are small and slightly bent. It has short legs, finished with fingers covered with hair on the bottom – which allows it not to sink in the snow in winter.

In this species the female has two to six cubs after a gestation period of 25-30 days. Compared to other animal species, the American pika forms monogamous pairs for life.
The American pika is part of the Lagomorpha order, Ochotinidae family and is not endangered species.

 

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