Tioga Road in Yosemite opened today and I dashed up to Gaylor Lake to greet my pika friends. I missed these ridiculously cute critters over the winter.
The American pika, a small relative of hares and rabbits, lives in rocky terrain typically at elevations of eight thousand to thirteen thousand feet in California. Also fondly referred to as rock rabbits, boulder bunnies, or “little chief hares,” pikas are often heard rather than seen and they call with a distinctive high-pitched “meep!”; appropriately, the animal’s name may be a derivative of the Russian word pikat, meaning “to squeak.” Despite the harsh winter conditions they experience, pikas do not hibernate but instead collect various grasses, shrubs, and lichens, place the food in the sun to dry, and then stash it into a “haystack” for winter consumption. These nimble and deft creatures have also been known to loot their neighbors’ haystacks.
I've observed this population for years now, taking photos and monitoring their activity, and I think they have become accustomed to this blonde giant--I seem to be an accepted member of this pika community as they always come out and say hello.