Small and egg-shaped with round ears, furry pikas are famous for their end-of-summer activity: Haystack-building. The herbivores gather elaborate piles of nutritious wildflowers and grasses, drying the plants in the sun at the mouth of their rock debris dens. They do not hibernate, so they need these well-prepared pantries to sustain them over the cold, harsh winter of the Canadian Rockies.
But this gathering process is a lot of work, requiring trip after trip down the talus slope to the nearby meadows. So when they see a stocked but unguarded den, they are tempted to steal what they can.
More from a study in the Journal of Mammology:
Kleptoparasitism, a tendency of individuals to steal resources from other animals, may reduce many of the costs associated with traditional foraging… Kleptoparasitism was not expressed in some populations and was of variable frequency in others. Both genders engaged equally in the behavior, and all animals stole from nearest neighbors, who were usually of the opposite sex… Cache defense may be the primary deterrent of kleptoparasites, but other factors such as nepotism may explain the low frequency of the behavior.
There are around 29 described pika species. “Two species reside in North America, the rest being found primarily throughout Central Asia; 23 of them live entirely or partly in China, especially the Tibetan plateau.”
Watch another video about a North American pika’s winter prep: Collared Pika Prepares For Winter in Wild Alaska.
Plus, watch more cute animal videos, including:
• Adorable baby hares in the wilderness
• Baby Koala Elsa at Australian Reptile Park
• Baby hippo Fiona’s never-before-seen moments
• Baby meerkats scamper and explore
• X-ray video of how hamsters fit food in their cheek pouches
Bonus: More videos about overwintering.
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