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CONTENTS

Living OrganismsAnimalia / Craniata / Mammalia / Lagomorpha / Ochotonidae / Ochotona / Species

Ochotona hoffmanni - Hoffmann's pika (Click photographs/illustrations for full picture & further details)

 

INDEX - INFORMATION AVAILABLE

GENERAL & REFERENCES

APPEARANCE / MORPHOLOGY

LIFE STAGES / NATURAL DIET / PHYSIOLOGY

BEHAVIOUR

HABITAT & RANGE

CONSERVATION

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General and References

Alternative Names (Synonyms)

General pika information
  • The name pika originated from the Tungus of Siberia who attempted to mimic the call "peeka" of the local pika species. (B285.w5g)
  • The generic name of Ochotona is derived from the Mongolian name for pikas: "ogdoi". (B285.w5g)
  • Mouse hares or conies are alternative names for pikas. (B147)
  • "Pishchukha" is the Russian common name for all species of pika and some gerbils (Rhombomys opimus, Meriones tamareiscinus (Muridae - (Family)). (B605.3.w3)

Names for new-borns / juveniles

--

Names for males

--

Names for females

--

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General Appearance

Adult: 

General pika information

  • Pikas are small, egg shaped, rodent-like lagomorphs which weigh under 500 g. They have rounded, relatively large ears, short legs, and a very short tail which is hardly visible. (B285.w5g)

Newborn:

General pika information

  • Newborn pikas are helpless and naked (B147, B287) or slightly furred. (B287)

Similar Species

Sexual Dimorphism

General pika information
  • Male and female pikas are similar in size and can be difficult to tell apart from one another. (B147)

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References

Species Authors & Referees

Editor: Nikki Fox BVSc MRCVS (V.w103)

ORGANISATIONS

ELECTRONIC LIBRARY
(Further Reading)
Click image for full contents list of ELECTRONIC LIBRARY

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Husbandry Information

Notes

  • --

Management Techniques

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Appearance / Morphology

Measurement & Weight

Notes

Note: There is very little reported data on this specific species so the details below are taken from general pika information.

LENGTH
Adult: 

General pika information

  • Pikas measure 120-300 mm. 
    • 120-285 mm. (B285.w5g)
    • 125-300 mm, with most species averaging around 200 mm or less. (B147)
  • Males and females are similar in size. (B147)

Newborns: --

HEIGHT
Adults and sub-adults: --
Juveniles: --

WEIGHT
Adult: 

General pika information

  • Pikas weigh 50-400 g
    • 50-350 g. (B285.w5g)
    • 125-400 g. (B147)

Newborns:

General pika information

  • Newborn pikas weigh about 9 g. (B147)
    • Range 4.1 - 12.7 g, depending on species. (B287)

GROWTH RATE:--

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Head and Neck

Notes

Note: There is very little reported data on this specific species so the details below are taken from general pika information and also from Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika (because until quite recently, the Hoffmann's pika was considered to be a subspecies of the Alpine pika). (B607.w20)

GENERAL HEAD STRUCTURE:
Adult:

Skull:

General pika information

  • In general, the head of pikas is blunt and short, and the skull is quite flattened rather than arched. There is also a constriction between the orbits. (B147)
  • Alpine pikas:
    • The skull of the Alpine pika is long and narrow but stoutly built. (B605.3.w3)
    • The incisive foramina are rounded and small, and completely separate from the foramina of the anterior palate. (B605.3.w3)
    • There are no fenestrae present in the frontals. (B605.3.w3)
    • The skull of the Alpine pika can be differentiated from that of Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika by the following features:
      • the skull is longer and less rounded;
      • the orbits are more elongate;
      • the rostrum is significantly longer;
      • the bullae are deeper and narrower and the caudal cranium is more strongly flexed downward. (B605.3.w3)
Ears:
  • General pika information: Pikas have small, rounded ears which are 12-36 mm in length. (B147; B285.w5g)
Nostrils:
  • General pika information: Pikas can completely close their nostrils. (B147)
Vibrissae:
  • General pika information: These are longer in the rock dwelling pikas, such as this species, than in burrowing pikas. (B605.3.w3)

Newborn: --

DENTITION

General pika information
  • There are 26 teeth in total - two less than other lagomorphs who have one more upper molar on each side. (B285.w5a, B605.1.w1)
  • The dental formula of pikas is 2/1 incisors, 0/0 canines, 3/2 premolars, and 2/3 molars. (B147, B605.1.w1)

Incisors

  • Lagomorphs, including pikas, differ from rodents by having two pairs of upper incisors rather than just the one pair. The additional set of incisors are called peg teeth and are found directly behind the long pair in the upper jaw. (B147, B285.w5a, B605.1.w1)
  • At birth, lagomorphs actually have three pairs of upper incisors, but they quickly lose the outer incisor on each side. (B147)
  • The incisors are covered completely by enamel. (B147)
  • The upper incisors' roots are found in the skull's premaxillary bones. However, the length of the lower incisors' roots varies. (B147)
    • [Note: lagomorphs have teeth which grow throughout their lives. For this reason the portion of the teeth which is not exposed (not above the gum line) is strictly speaking not a "root"; however, it is sometimes convenient to describe it as a root.]
  • The first upper incisors have a cutting edge which is V-shaped. (B147)
  • The peg teeth lack a cutting edge. (B147)

Molars

  • Pikas have high crowned cheek teeth with no roots [the teeth grow continuously throughout life]. (B147)
  • The lower tooth rows are closer together than the upper tooth rows. (B147)

EYES:

General pika information

  • Adult: Pikas have eyes positioned to give a broad field of vision (B285.w5a)
  • Newborn: Neonates are blind; the eyes open at eight to ten days. (B287)

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Legs, Spine and Tracks

Notes

General pika information
  • Pikas have short legs. (B285.w5g)
  • The hindlimbs are just slightly longer than the forelimbs. (B147, B430.w2, B605.2.w2)
  • They have five digits on each foot. (B147)
  • The feet are heavily furred on the underside. (B147)
  • In rock dwelling pikas, such as this species, the claws are more curved and less powerful than those of the burrowing pikas. (B605.3.w3)

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Tail

Notes

General pika information
  • The tail of pikas is virtually absent at a length of 5 mm (B285.w5g); it is not visible. (B147; B430.w2)

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Skin / Coat / Pelage

Notes

Note: There is very little reported data on this specific species so the details below are taken from general pika information and also from Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika (until quite recently, the Hoffmann's pika was considered to be a subspecies of the Alpine pika). (B607.w20)

Adult: 

General pika information:
  • Fine, long, soft and dense coat with fur that covers the feet including the under surface. (B147, B285.w5g)
  • Most pikas are lighter ventrally than dorsally. (B285.w5g)
  • Most species have two moults per year with a brighter summer coat - often a yellowish red - and a greyer winter coat. (B147)
Summer coat of the closely-related Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika
  • Dorsum dull, yellowy, ochre-grey darkened by dark brown or black hair tips;
  • Flank rust-red tinge;
  • Ventrum pale yellowish ochre.
Winter coat of the closely-related Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika:
  • Grey coat with a tinge of yellow. (B605.3.w3)

Adult Colour variations:

  • The summer coat may vary significantly in the different subspecies of the Alpine pika. (B605.3.w3)

Newborn/Juvenile:

General pika information

  • Newborn pikas are hairless (B147, B287) or slightly furred. (B287)

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Detailed Anatomy Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in Wildpro)

Notes

Ochotona spp. general information:
  • Mammary glands:
    • Females have four or six mammary glands. (B147)
  • Female reproductive tract:
    • The uterus is duplex. The placenta is discoid, deciduate and hemochorial,with a mesometrial, superficial implantation. (B287)
  • Male reproductive tract:
    • Testes:
      • The testes are intra-abdominal outside the breeding season. (B147, B287)
      • During the breeding season they are found in folds of skin at the base of the penis. (B147)
    • Penis:
  • Scent glands: Pikas have scent glands, as do all lagomorphs. (B285.w5a)

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Life Stages / Natural Diet / Physiology

Life Stages

Notes

Note: There is very little reported data on this specific species so most of the details below are taken from general pika information and also from Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika (until quite recently, the Hoffmann's pika was considered to be a subspecies of the Alpine pika). (B607.w20)

Notes:

  • The Hoffmann's is a rock dwelling pika rather than a burrowing pika.
  • The Alpine pika has a low fecundity rate which is characteristic of other rock dwelling species. (B605.3.w3)

BREEDING SEASON:

General pika information

  • In general, pikas breed twice a year in the spring and summer, and many species will have two or more litters per year. (B147)

OESTRUS/OVULATION:

General pika information

GESTATION/PREGNANCY:

General pika information

  • Pikas have a short gestation period. (B285.w5a)
    • Rock dwelling pikas such as the Hoffmann's pika, have a gestation period of 30 days. (B147; B605.3.w3)
  • Embryo resorption may occur if the pika encounters adverse conditions. (B285.w5a)

PARTURITION/BIRTH: --

NEONATAL / DEVELOPMENT--

LITTER SIZE:

General pika information

  • In general, burrowing pikas have litters which are twice as large as those of rock dwelling pikas such as the Hoffmann's pika. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)
  • This may vary seasonally in this species. 
  • Alpine pikas had a mean litter size of 3 young in the first litter and 4.4 in the second litter. There was also a seasonal increase in litter size.
    (B605.3.w3)

TIME BETWEEN LITTERS / LITTERS PER YEAR: 

General pika information

  • Rock dwelling pikas, such as the Hoffmann's pika, have few litters per year. They may have two litters annually but often only one is successfully weaned (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)
  • The number of litters per year decreases with increasing elevation.
    (B605.3.w3)

LACTATION / MILK PRODUCTION: --

SEXUAL MATURITY:

General pika information

  • Young rock dwelling pikas, such as the Hoffmann's pika, will first breed as yearlings. (B605.3.w3)

MALE SEASONAL VARIATION:

General pika information

  • The testes are intra-abdominal outside the breeding season; during the breeding season they are found in folds of skin at the base of the penis (in lagomorphs, the testes are in front of the penis). (B147)

LONGEVITY / MORTALITY:

General pika information

  • In general there is high mortality as pikas are prey for many mammals and birds. (B285.w5a)
  • Average annual mortality rates of the Alpine species have been shown to differ between populations living in the alpine zone (41%) and forests (53%). Most pikas were one to three. In the majority of populations, the magnitude of yearly fluctuations in density is not substantially different. (B605.3.w3)
  • In general, rock dwelling pikas such as the Hoffmann's pika, may live up to seven years old. (B285.w5g) Their average mortality is low compared to the burrowing pikas. (B605.3.w3)

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Natural Diet

Notes

NATURAL DIET:

General pika information

  • Pikas are herbivorous - they eat grasses, flowering stalks, and leaves. Pikas have a preference for those plants highest in protein or other chemicals important to them. (B285.w5g)

  • Pikas eat a range of vegetable matter: "in the summer and early autumn the animals gather grasses, sedges, weeds, and many of the large flowering and woody plants, sometimes climbing a few meters up in trees and out on limbs to cut twigs. The material is sometimes place in exposed locations for curing by the sun"; many populations create haystacks to store food for winter. (B147)

QUANTITY EATEN: --

STUDY METHODS: --

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Hibernation / Aestivation

Notes

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Haematology / Biochemistry

Notes

HAEMATOLOGY: --

BIOCHEMISTRY: --

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Detailed Physiology Notes
(Summary information provided for pertinent species-specific data cross-referenced in WILDPro)

Notes

Note: There is very little reported data on this specific species so most of the details below are taken from general pika information and also from Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika (until quite recently, the Hoffmann's pika was considered to be a subspecies of the Alpine pika). (B607.w20)

METABOLISM (TEMPERATURE): 

General pika information

  • Pikas have a high body temperature. (B285.w5g)

RESPIRATORY SYSTEM (RESPIRATION): --

CIRCULATORY SYSTEM (PULSE/HEART RATE): --

GASTROINTESTINAL SYSTEM (FAECES AND GUT MOTILITY):

General pika information

  • Jaw motion: Pikas have a vertical or transverse jaw motion. (B147); pikas use a side-to-side jaw motion. (B285.w5g)
  • Coprophagy: Pikas produce two types of faeces, hard faeces like pepper seeds - small green spherical pellets - which are passed during the day; and soft faeces, sticky and dark green/black, passed at night. Faeces of the latter type have high a energy value and B vitamin levels, and are re-ingested. This behaviour, known as coprophagy, may have a similar function to the ruminant behaviour of chewing the cud. (B147, B285.w5a)

URINARY SYSTEM (URINE): --

CHROMOSOMES:

(B605.3.w3)

MUSCULO-SKELETAL SYSTEM:

SPECIAL SENSES AND VOCALISATIONS:

Vocalisations:

General pika information

  • Pikas are known to be more vocal than other lagomorphs. (B285.w5a)
  • Rock-dwelling pikas such as the Hoffmann's pika, tend to have only two vocalisations: 
    • a short call which usually contains one or two note squeaks, used for announcing their presence or warning others of predators;
    • and a long call used by males during the breeding season which is "a series of squeaks lasting up to 30 seconds". 
      (B285.w5g

Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika information:

  • Long call: The "song" or long call of the Alpine male is the most ritualised and complex demonstration of vocalisations of this species. It is made up of three series of different calls which are given one after the other. A male will respond to playbacks of this call with the same song. This type of long song is characteristic of the following subspecies:
    • Ochotona alpina alpina
    • Ochotona alpina changaica
    • Ochotona alpina nitida
    However, it has not been heard from Ochotona alpina cinereofusca or Ochotona alpina scorodumovi.
  • Short call: This is a sharp strident whistle (except for the Hoffmann's species of the Bajan Ulan Mountains) that is distinguished easily from the high-pitched very short whistle of the sympatric Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika.
  • Alpine pikas also use vocalisations during chases with conspecifics.
  • Alarm calls are immediately uttered upon perception of any threat, e.g. approach of persons, predators, etc. "They perceive danger and respond with alarm calls over a greater distance than most pika species".
    (B605.3.w3)
  • The Hoffmann's pika is now considered a distinct species from Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika based on, among other things, acoustics. [details not provided](B607.w20)

Scent glands:

General pika information

  • Pikas have scent glands, as do all lagomorphs. (B285.w5a)
  • Neck gland: like all the Eurasian species, and contrasting with the North American pikas, the Hoffmann's pika has a scent gland on its neck, but no apocrine (cheek) gland. Both sexes mark the corners of the stones, which are located primarily close to the centre of their mutual home range. They do this by rubbing the stones with their neck glands. This behaviour has been seen to occur in Alpine pikas from April to December but the most well developed glands were found in male pikas in spring.
  • Anal gland: this is another gland of the Alpine species. The mass of these anal glands is greater in the male and is also larger during the month of August when haypiles are being built compared to springtime.
  • In other pika species, the two functions of scent marking have been said to be:
    • territory maintenance and possibly advertisement.
    • sexual advertisement leading on to mating.
      (B605.3.w3)

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Behaviour

Feeding Behaviour

Notes

Note: There is very little reported data on this specific species so the details below are taken from general pika information and also from Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika (until quite recently, the Hoffmann's pika was considered to be a subspecies of the Alpine pika). (B607.w20)

  • Pikas are unable to grasp plants with their forepaws; they eat with a side-to-side jaw motion and carry vegetation in their mouths. (B285.w5g)
Haying and foraging 
  • In spring, summer and/or autumn (fall) (depending on species/location) many pika species spend much time "haying" - harvesting mouthfuls of vegetation which are carried back to the den for storage. They build up these stores, resembling piles of hay, and use them for consumption during periods of sparse vegetation, often over-harvesting so that it is a rare occurrence for them to run out of food. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3) 
  • Pika species living in areas where winter snow is common may also make tunnels in the snow to reach and harvest any nearby vegetation. (B285.w5g)
  • Some species continue to forage throughout winter rather than haying, because snows are uncommon. (B285.w5g)
  • Even at a fairly low population density of ten to twelve pikas per hectare, vegetation storage by pikas may be up to 30 kg per hectare. (B605.3.w3)

Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika information: 

  • Haypiles created by Alpine pikas may provide winter food for domestic cows and horses and also native species such as ungulates or smaller herbivores:
    • Ungulates: many species will change their local distribution in response to the pika hay stores.
    • Siberian wapiti, Cervus elaphus sibiricus (Cervus elaphus - Red deer (North American Elk)) - in winters where there are particulary heavy snows, they often group in the habitats of pikas eating the hay from one haypile to another.
    • Rangifer tarandus - Reindeer - during snowstorms they come down from their alpine environments into the forest to eat the pika haypiles.
    • Domestic species - horses and cows may also feed on pika haypiles over winter.
    • Voles and shrews - Clethrionomys spp. and Sorex spp. respectively, are four times higher in areas where there are pika haypiles compared to the surrounding forest.

    (B605.3.w3)

  • Even at a fairly low population density of ten to twelve pikas per hectare, vegetation storage by this species of pikas may be up to 30 kg per hectare. (B605.3.w3)

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Parental Behaviour

Notes

--

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Social Behaviour / Territoriality / Predation / Learning

Notes

Note: There is very little reported data on this specific species so most of the details below are taken from general pika information and also from Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika (until quite recently, the Hoffmann's pika was considered to be a subspecies of the Alpine pika). (B607.w20)
Social

General pika information

  • The rock dwelling pikas are often relatively asocial.  (B605.3.w3)
  • It is rare that they interact and usually it is to repel an intruder if they do so. (B285.w5g)

  • Even in a pair of pikas which are contributing to a shared hay pile, they spend a large part of the day apart. (B285.w5g)

Territoriality

General pika information

  • Pikas are highly territorial lagomorphs; both sexes use scent marking and vocalisations to maintain territories. (B605.1.w1)
  • The rock- dwelling pikas have large territories defended in pairs (Asian species). (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)

  • The population density is low, at 5-25 per acre, and reasonably stable over a period of time. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)

    • Population densities of pikas in rocky areas do not usually reach more than 20 per hectare. (B147)

  • Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika lives in a family group made up of an adult pair and their offspring but this does depend on the season. Adult partners share mutual haypiles and shelters within the family feeding territories. There is no overlapping of the borders of these family feeding territories and they are reasonably stable from year to year. The actual home ranges of the family groups are more extensive than the feeding territory and they do overlap. (B605.3.w3)
Population densities:

General pika information

  • The population density of rock dwelling pikas is usually low at 5-25 per acre, and reasonably stable over a period of time. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)
Predation: 

General pika information

  • In certain areas, Alpine pikas make up a large part of the diet of Mustela zibellina - Sable (Mustela - (Genus))(B605.3.w3)

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Sexual Behaviour

Notes

General pika information

In general, it appears that pikas are monogamous. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)

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Activity Patterns, Self-grooming and Navigation

Notes

ACTIVITY PATTERNS: 

General pika information:

Pikas are agile and lively. (B285.w5g)

SELF-GROOMING: --

CIRCADIAN RHYTHM:

General pika information
  • Mainly active by day. Pikas are well-adapted to the cold and sensitive to even moderately warm conditions, therefore they tend to be active only during the cooler parts of the day. (B285.w5g)
  • Pikas may be active at all hours, in particular, early morning and evenings. It seems that they are less active on sunny days compared with cloudy days. (B147)
  • Pikas which live at high altitudes may be active all day, whereas pikas at warmer, lower altitudes emerge only in the morning and evening. (B285.w5g)

SPEED OF MOVEMENT: --

NAVIGATION: --

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Habitat and Range

General Habitat Type

Notes

General pika information
  • Most pikas live in remote high mountains and wild country and are well adapted to the cold.
    Pikas have become well adapted to living in rocky steppe and alpine habitats. (B285.w5g, B605.3.w3)
  • Some species inhabit moist forest areas, living under stumps of trees or fallen logs. (B147)

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Nests / Burrows / Shelters

Notes

General pika information
  • Rock dwelling pikas nest among rocks or fallen logs. (B285.w5g)

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Distribution and Movement (Migration etc.)

Notes

Specific Ochotona hoffmani information
  • "Restricted to the subalpine zone of the Hentiyn Nuruu ridge, Bayan-Ulan mountains, Mongolian People's Republic, and Erman range, Russia". (B607.w20)

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Conservation

Species variation

Notes

Specific Ochotona hoffmani information

Former subspecies of:

  • Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika: Hoffmann's pika was formerly considered to be included within this species, but has since been accepted as a full species on the basis of chromosome evidence, morphology and bioacoustical evidence. (B607.w20)

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Conservation Status

Notes

Note: There is very little reported data on this specific species so some of the details below are taken from general pika information and also from Ochotona alpina - Alpine pika (until quite recently, the Hoffmann's pika was considered to be a subspecies of the Alpine pika). (B607.w20)

WILD POPULATION - IMPORTANCE:

General pika information

Pikas are important for the following reasons:

  • They act as prey for many birds and mammals. 
  • Alpine pikas (and also Ochotona hyperborea - Northern pika) are the basic food for sables and so play an important role in the ecosystem. For more details please see the predation section.
  • Haypiles created by Alpine pikas may provide winter food for domestic cows and horses and also native species such as ungulates or smaller herbivores:
    • Ungulates: many species will change their local distribution in response to the pika hay stores.
    • Siberian wapiti, Cervus elaphus sibiricus (Cervus elaphus - Red deer (North American Elk)) - in winters where there are particulary heavy snows, they often group in the habitats of pikas eating the hay from one haypile to another.
    • Rangifer tarandus - Reindeer - during snowstorms they come down from their alpine environments into the forest to eat the pika haypiles.
    • Domestic species - horses and cows may also feed on pika haypiles over winter.
    • Voles and shrews - Clethrionomys spp. and Sorex spp. respectively, are four times higher in areas where there are pika haypiles compared to the surrounding forest.

    (B605.3.w3)

  • Alpine pikas play a part in positively influencing the diversity and composition of the local plant community by:
    • facilitating the plant colonisation on their habitat due to the organic remains of the haypiles stored on the talus;
    • the large accumulation of their pellets under their shelters promotes spots of nitrophilic vegetation.
      (B605.3.w3)

 GENERAL LEGISLATION:

  • "Currently no species or forms of Ochotona are treated on any national list of endangered or threatened wildlife." (B605.3.w3)

CITES LISTING:

  • There are currently no Ochotona species CITES-listed. (W354.April08.w1)

RED-DATA LIST STATUS: 

Specific Ochotona hoffmani information

  • IUCN - Vulnerable. (W2.Apr08.w48)

THREATS:

Specific Ochotona hoffmani information

  • Hoffman's pika: "A distinct form of alpine pika (as yet unnamed) has been found in the Bajan Ulan Mountains on the shore of the Kerulin River in the Mongolian People's Republic. Its status is unknown." (B605.3.w3)
  • As Ochotona alpina hoffmani, this pika is thought to be vulnerable. Its habitat is less than 100 square kilometres and it is susceptible to adverse human activity. (B147)

General pika information

  • In general, the status of many species of pika is hard to assess because they inhabit such remote areas. (B285.w5g)
  • Many species of pika inhabit very restricted ranges and so may be threatened by human environmental disruption. (B147)

PEST STATUS / PEST POPULATIONS:

General pika information 

  • Alpine pikas play a part in negatively influencing the diversity and composition of the local plant community:
    • they are known to decrease the proportion of flowering plants;
    • decrease the store of seeds found in the soil;
    • and slow down the succession of the plant community by consuming young trees.
      (B605.3.w3)

General pika information

  • Due to their remote habitat, most pikas "rarely come into conflict with human economic activity." (B147)

CAPTIVE POPULATIONS:

TRADE AND USE: --

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