Northern Pika Ochotona hyperborea
Photo: Mark Brazil
Identification: Fur is reddish-brown during summer, turning more greyish-brown or dark brown in winter. A stocky, compact animal with short (15-20 mm), but prominent rounded ears, and large hind feet (24-27 mm). It resembles a small rabbit with shorter ears and less prominent hind limbs.
Size: Head and body 13-19 cm. Tail 5-12 mm. Weight c150 g.
Distribution: Widespread across northeastern Eurasia, in Chukotka, Kamchatka, Sakhalin and Hokkaido. In Hokkaido found generally above 800 m in the Hidaka, Yubari, Ashibetsu and Daisetsu mountain ranges.
Ecology: It inhabits rocky areas in the alpine zone, particularly exposed and stable boulder scree slopes, where it occupies cavities between the rocks. It feeds on the leaves and stems of a wide range of plant species, but only those growing in close proximity to its den site. Will also eat ferns, mosses and mushrooms. It gathers and stores food, collecting actively during autumn to provide itself with a supply of food for the winter. Active day and night, and year round; it does not hibernate. Active partly above ground from spring to autumn, but has a largely subnivean existence during winter. Males and females both vocalize, males with multiple high-pitched calls, females with single whistled calls. Territorial. The Northern Pika breeds once annually with females producing a single litter of 2-4 (occasionally 1-5) young. The Japanese name, Naki-usagi (singing hare), is derived from these calls.