Northern Pika

Northern Pika

Japanese guinea pig

Ochotona hyperborea
Population size
Life Span
3 years
g oz 
cm inch 

The northern pika (Ochotona hyperborea ) is a species of pika found across mountainous regions of northern Asia, from the Ural Mountains to northern Japan and south through Mongolia, Manchuria and northern Korea. An adult northern pika has a body length of 12.5–18.5 centimeters (4.9–7.3 in), and a tail of 0.5–1.2 centimeters (0.20–0.47 in). The pika sheds its fur twice annually, bearing a reddish-brown coat in the summer and grayish-brown coat in winter. It feeds on various plant material and makes "hay piles" for winter use.


Northern pikas have small rounded ears and short legs with five toes on each foot and furry soles. Their fine long hair is reddish-brown in summer but much greyer in winter. The underparts are white tinged with reddish-brown. Northern pikas vary in size and colouring across their extensive range. These animals shed their fur twice per year, bearing a reddish-brown coat in the summer and grayish-brown coat in winter.




Northern pikas are found in eastern Asia. Their range extends from the Urals and the Putorana Plateau, through eastern and southern Siberia, including Sakhalin Island, to northern Mongolia, Manchuria, North Korea, and Hokkaido. They live on scree and on rocky slopes in mountainous areas, in boulder fields, in damp areas among coniferous trees and in dry Alpine meadows.

Northern Pika habitat map

Climate zones

Northern Pika habitat map
Northern Pika
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Habits and Lifestyle

Northern pikas are crepuscular and social. They live in a network of burrows which they make themselves and also use crevices in the rocks or subterranean runways. Each underground network has many entrances and pathways that are connescted with feeding areas on the surface. When above ground, these small animals spend their time moving about, feeding, grooming or sitting in a stationary position. They mostly move around using short jumps but can also walk, run, and climb. During foraging, they gather food and carry it back to one of the eating points near entrances to the burrow. If alarmed while feeding, the pika may dash to its hole or remain stationary and alert till the danger passes. They also collect green parts of plants, allow them to dry, and store them in caches. Northern pikas do not hibernate and can tunnel under the snow to reach their caches or visit areas where twigs and other plants are still available. When threatened these animals produce a sharp warning cry "Kitz" or may call to other pikas in the area and those may respond. Other shrill calls may be made when sitting or moving around.

Seasonal behavior

Diet and Nutrition

Northern pikas are herbivorous and eat a variety of plant material such as grasses, twigs, needles, stems, and leaves.

Mating Habits

spring, summer
28 days
3-4 kits
kit, kitten

Northern pikas are polygynandrous (promiscuous) which means that males and females have nultiple partners during the mating season. During this time both males and females defend territories. They mark the boundaries by either rubbing a gland on their cheek on a projecting rock or by scent marking with urine. A territory is usually occupied by a pair of pikas but males sometimes stray into other territories and females may be visited by multiple males at the same time. The breeding season takes place in spring and depending on location may take place again in the summer. Females give birth to one litter of up to 9 (usually 3-4) offspring each year, though two smaller litters may be produced in the more southerly part of the range. The gestation period is about 28 days and juveniles share their parents' territory for a while before dispersing. The mated pair or whole family group help to gather food stores for the winter. It is unclear when Northern pikas become sexually mature.


Population threats

Currently, these animals don't face any significant threats.

Population number

According to IUCN, the Northern pika is locally common and widespread throughout its range but no overall population estimate is available. Currently, this species is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List and its numbers today are stable.

Ecological niche

Northern pikas store food for winter and other animals who find these caches eat them during the cold months when it is usually hard to find food. These caches also may promote the growth of new plants in the area.


1. Northern Pika on Wikipedia -
2. Northern Pika on The IUCN Red List site -

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