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Pika Claws

The American Pika: Nature's Ninja Warrior with a Haystack Habit

American Pika on Top of a Branch

Imagine a tiny mountain dweller, no bigger than a well-fed hamster, scaling sheer rock faces like a furry Spiderman. That, my friends, is the American Pika!  These pint-sized athletes are the ultimate rock stars of the rodent world, and their success story hinges on three key features: claws that would make Wolverine jealous, a surprising burst of speed, and an insatiable appetite for all things green.

Let's talk claws. Picture a pair of miniature grappling hooks, perfectly curved and razor-sharp. These bad boys allow pikas to navigate their rocky kingdom with acrobatic finesse.  They can scamper across scree slopes, shimmy up cliffs, and even tightrope-walk fallen branches – all with the confidence of a seasoned trapeze artist.

But claws aren't just for show.  Come winter, when the mountains transform into a snowy wonderland, these resourceful pikas turn their claws into snowplows.  They dig intricate tunnels beneath the snowpack, creating personal subnivean highways that lead them to hidden stockpiles of food.  It's like having your own personal grocery store accessible through a secret tunnel – genius, right?

Speaking of stockpiles, pikas are the champions of hayfever (well, hay gathering, that is). All summer long, they're on a non-stop mission, stuffing their little cheeks with every juicy dandelion leaf and tasty wildflower they can find.  These aren't your average packrats, though.  Pikas meticulously organize their loot into impressive haystacks, tucked away in rocky crevices. It's like having a personal pantry stocked for the long winter haul.

Now, you might think all this climbing and stockpiling requires a marathon runner's stamina.  

Think again!  Pikas may be small, but they pack a surprising punch when it comes to speed.  In short bursts, they can zoom across rocks at a pace that would leave even Usain Bolt breathless (although, admittedly, Usain Bolt wouldn't have much competition on a mountain slope).  This burst of speed comes in handy when escaping predators like hawks or weasels – because let's face it, even the most aerodynamic haystack isn't much protection from a hungry bird.

The American Pika – a master climber, a champion hay collector, and a sprinter in a world of slow and steady.  These little guys are a testament to the power of adaptation and a reminder that even the smallest creatures can achieve big things with the right tools (and a whole lot of hay).

-By Jere Folgert

Researchers found evidence of widespread reduction in pika range in three mountainous regions including the Great Basin, southern Utah and northeastern California. Read more about pikas Disappearing from Parts of the West Due to Climate Change.

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