A critter the size and shape of a furry russet potato, with Mickey Mouse ears, and no tail, the American pika might not be your standard “iconic” species. But the charismatic rabbit-relative is integral to the high-alpine landscapes of the American West. Hikers above the tree line often see the diminutive creatures busily dashing around slopes of rocky debris called taluses. If they don’t see them, they likely hear their high-pitched calls.
“They look like little dumplings, but they’re actually really industrious, hard-working animals,” says Alex Wells, the community science coordinator at the Denver Zoo and co-director of the Colorado Pika Project, a partnership between the zoo and Rocky Mountain Wild, a Denver-based nonprofit. The project’s mission is to