Ochotona collaris 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Mammalia Lagomorpha Ochotonidae

Scientific Name: Ochotona collaris
Species Authority: (Nelson, 1893)
Common Name(s):
English Collared Pika
Taxonomic Notes: There are no recognized subspecies of Ochotona collaris (Hoffmann and Smith 2005).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2016
Date Assessed: 2016-07-07
Assessor(s): Lanier, H. and Hik, D.
Reviewer(s): Battistoni, A.
Contributor(s): Smith, A.T. and Johnston, C.
This is a widespread species that is unlikely to be experiencing a decline significant enough to warrant listing under a threat category. Ochotona collaris occurs in remote regions of Alaska (USA) and northwestern Canada, where it is unlikely to be negatively influenced by human activities (Smith et al. 1990). It is possible that some local declines have been exacerbated by localized impacts of global warming on snow cover and shrub encroachment, and more work needs to be conducted to determine the severity and generality of these responses.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Ochotona collaris has a wide geographic distribution that includes central and southern Alaska, almost the entirety of the Yukon Territory, northwestern British Columbia, and the western regions of the Northwest Territory (MacDonald and Jones 1987, Smith et al. 1990). This species has been recorded occurring above the tree line in throughout its range, but also on high alpine peaks in the St. Elias Icefields and elevations near sea level (MacDonald and Jones 1987).
Countries occurrence:
Canada (British Columbia, Northwest Territories, Yukon); United States (Alaska)
Additional data:
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

Population:There are no current data regarding the overall population status of Ochotona collaris. Population densities have been estimated at 6.4-7.2 individuals/ha (Broadbooks 1965). In other regions of the Yukon population density ranges from below 1.0 up to 4.0 pikas/ha (Morrison 2007, Horn 2013). A study conducted in the Ruby Range (Yukon, Canada) indicated that population abundance at the study site has periodically experienced a overwinter declines (Morrison 2007, Horn 2013). A population viability analysis on census data collected from 1995 to 2006 for the study site at Ruby Range (Morrison 2007), produced a greater than 90% probability of extinction within 10-15 years when female reproduction rates were low.  However, this population subsequently recovered indicating the potential for recovery following periodic decline. In addition there is no evidence for previous genetic bottlenecks.
Current Population Trend:Unknown
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Ochotona collaris is a typical rock-dwelling species of pika (Smith et al. 1990). Talus sites are often located in proximity to vegetation patches and meadows (MacDonald and Jones 1987). Home ranges for this species are typically 30 m in diameter (MacDonald and Jones 1987). O. collaris is a general herbivore that constructs haypiles (Smith et al. 1990, Franken and Hik 2004). However, individuals that occupy nunataks (rocky outcroppings) of the Yukon Territory in Canada will collect and forage upon the brain matter of dead birds to supplement their diet (Krajick 1998). Increased risk of predation did not alter vegetative selection, but did decrease the overall amount collected (Morrison et al. 2004). Ochotona collaris is a diurnal pika, active in the morning and late afternoon (MacDonald and Jones 1987, Morrison et al. 2009). The breeding season peaks from May to early June (MacDonald and Jones 1987), but can extend into July in some years (Franken and Hik 2004). The season is timed to allow parturition to coincide with the start of vegetative growth. Litter size for this species is two to six, with two litters produced per year (MacDonald and Jones 1987). A recent study suggests that a reduced breeding season, resulting from high latitudinal orientation, may limit this species to a single litter per year (Franken and Hik 2004). Young are weaned within three to four weeks and reach reproductive maturity by one year of age (Franken and Hik 2004). Gestation time is approximately 30 days (MacDonald and Jones 1987). Adult size is reached between 40-50 days (MacDonald and Jones 1987). The total length of this species averages 18.9 cm (Hall 1981), and mass is typically about 150 g (Franken and Hik 2004).

Largely a philopatric settlement pattern, however individuals appear to be able to move over sufficient distances to maintain gene flow.  In the Ruby Range (Yukon) population, Zgurski and Hik (2014) reported that while this population declined abruptly during 2000 and 2003, it subsequently recovered and failed to show any genetic signature of having undergone a population bottleneck.  There was also no evidence for widespread inbreeding before or after the population declines. Using a spatial autocorrelation analysis, they documented positive fine-scale genetic structure (<250 m) in the population during seven out of the 12 years examined (N=442 individuals). Although the genetic structure was consistent with low average dispersal distances, there was also evidence that this population received immigrants from other surrounding populations, and that some of these individuals survived and bred.  So there is evidence that dispersal distances are adequate for preventing declines in genetic variability. On a broad landscape scale, little gene flow exists between separate mountain ranges (Lanier et al. 2015b).

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The state of Alaska recently (2006) made the collared pika a fur-bearer; but there is no evidence that it has actually been trapped or entered into commerce as such.  No similar classification exists in Canada.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): There are no known threats for Ochotona collaris, although it may be vulnerable to global climate change. Specifically, there is evidence that winter and spring snowpack, which provides subnivian shelter for pikas, is diminishing throughout its range (  There is also increasing evidence of shrub expansion into alpine habitats favoured by Collared Pikas (Myers-Smith et al. 2015, Myers-Smith and Hik, in review).  It is unlikely that this species will be directly negatively influenced by human activities, as it occurs in remote regions of Alaska (USA) and northwestern Canada (Smith et al. 1990). Recent changes to Alaskan hunting regulations permit the unlimited trapping of pika for food and pelt (Mowry 2006) during a year round open season along the eastern regions of the state (Alaska Department of Fish and Game 2006). This policy may lead to local depression of populations as a result of intrinsic low density and reproductive rate.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions: There are no known conservation measures in place for this species. Recent changes to the hunting regulations in Alaska allow for the unlimited, year-round hunting and trapping of Ochotona collaris (Alaska Department of Fish and Game 2006). Monitoring for negative consequences should be implemented, as this species occurs naturally at low densities and has one of the lowest reproductive rates for small mammals.

Classifications [top]

0. Root -> 6. Rocky areas (eg. inland cliffs, mountain peaks)

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
  Action Recovery plan:Yes
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
3. Monitoring -> 3.1. Population trends

Bibliography [top]

Alaska Department of Fish and Game. 2006. Small Game: Seasons and Bag Limits.

Barrio, I.C. and Hik, D.S. 2013. Good neighbors? Determinants of aggregation and segregation among alpine herbivores. Ecoscience 20: 276-282.

Broadbooks, H. E. 1965. Ecology and distribution of the pikas of Washington and Alaska. American Midland Naturalist 76: 229-335.

COSEWIC (Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada). 2011. COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Collared Pika Ochotona collaris in Canada. Ottawa.

Franken, R. J. and Hik, D. S. 2004. Interannual variation in timing of parturition and growth of collared pikas (Ochotona collaris) in the southwest Yukon. Integrative and Comparative Biology 44(2): 186-193.

Galbreath, K.E. and Hoberg, E.P. 2012. Return to Beringia: parasites reveal cryptic biogeographical history of North American pikas. Proceedings of the Royal Society 279: 371-378.

Guthrie, R.D. 1973. Mummified pika (Ochotona) carcass and dung pellets from Pleistocene deposits in interior Alaska. Journal of Mammalogy 54: 970-971.

Hall, E.R. 1981. The Mammals of North America. John Wiley and Sons, New York, USA.

Harington, C.R. 2011. Pleistocene vertebrates of the Yukon Territory. Quaternary Science Reviews 30: 2341-2354.

Hoffmann, R.S. and Smith, A.T. 2005. Order Lagomorpha. In: D.E. Wilson and D.M. Reeder (eds), Mammal Species of the World, pp. 185-211. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland, USA.

Horn, H.L. 2013. The role of habitat quality and climate in the dynamics of occupancy and survival of a population of collared pikas (Ochotona collaris) in the Ruby Range, Yukon Territory. MSc thesis, Biological Sciences, University of Alberta.

IUCN. 2016. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2016-3. Available at: (Accessed: 07 December 2016).

Koh, S. and Hik, D.S. 2007. Herbivory mediates grass-endophyte relationships. Ecology 88: 2752-2757.

Krajick, K. 1998. Nunataks. Icebound islands of life, National Geographic 194(6): 60-71.

Lanier, H.C. and Olson, L.E. 2009. Inferring divergence times within pikas (Ochotona spp.) using mtDNA and relaxed molecular dating techniques. Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 53: 1-12.

Lanier, H.C. and Olson, L.E. 2013. Deep barriers, shallow divergences: reduced phylogeographic structure in the collared pika (Ochotona collaris). Journal of Biogeography 40: 466-478.

Lanier, H.C., Gunderson, A.M., Weksler, M., Fedorov, V.B. and Olson, L.E. 2015. Comparative phylogeography highlights the double-edged sword of climate change faced by Arctic-and alpine-adapted mammals. PLoS ONE 0(3): e0118396.

Lanier, H.C., Massatti, R., He, Q., Olson, L.E. and Knowles, L.L. 2015. Colonization from divergent ancestors: glaciation signatures on contemporary patterns of genomics variation in Collared Pikas (Ochotona collaris). Molecular Ecology 24: 3688-3705.

Lynch, A.J., Duszynski, D.W. and Cook, J.A. 2007. Species of Coccidia (Apicomplexa: Eimeriidae) infecting pikas from Alaska, U.S.A. and Northeastern Siberia, Russia. Journal of Parasitology 93: 1230–1234.

Macdonald, S. O. and Jones, C. 1987. Ochotona collaris. Mammalian Species 281: 1-4.

Morrison, S. F. 2007. Foraging behavior and population dynamics of collared pikas, Ochotona collaris. Biological Sciences, University of Alberta.

Morrison, S.F. and Hik, D.S. 2007. Demographic analysis of a declining pika Ochotona collaris population: linking survival to broad-scale climate patterns via spring snowmelt patterns. Journal of Animal Ecology 76: 899-907.

Morrison, S.F., Barton, L., Caputa, P. and Hik, D.S. 2004. Forage selection by collared pikas, Ochotona collaris, under varying degrees of predation risk. Canadian Journal of Zoology 82: 533-540.

Morrison, S.F., Pelchat, G., Donahue, A. and Hik, D.S. 2009. Influence of food hoarding behavior on the over-winter survival of pikas in strongly seasonal environments. Oecologia 159: 107-116.

Mowry, T. 2006. Pika trapping sure to raise a bit of a stink in Alaska.

Myers-Smith, I. H., Elmendorf, S. C., Beck, P. S., Wilmking, M., Hallinger, M., Blok, D., ... and Speed, J.D. 2015. Climate sensitivity of shrub growth across the tundra biome. Nature Climate Change 5(9): 887-891.

Rausch, R.L. 1961. Notes on the collared pika, Ochotona collaris (Nelson), in Alaska. The Murrlet 42: 22-24.

Slough, B.G. and Jung, T.S. 2007. Diversity and distribution of the terrestrial mammals of the Yukon Territory: a review. The Canadian Field Naturalist 121: 119-127.

Smith, A.T. and Weston, M.L. 1990. Ochotona princeps. Mammalian Species 352: 1-8.

Smith, A. T., Formozov, N. A., Hoffmann, R. S., Changlin, Z. and Erbajeva, M. A. 1990. The Pikas. In: J. A. Chapman and J. C. Flux (eds), Rabbits, Hares and Pikas: Status Survey and Conservation Action Plan, pp. 14-60. The World Conservation Union, Gland, Switzerland.

Trefry, S.A. and Hik, D.S. 2009. Eavesdropping on the neighborhood: collared pika (Ochotona collaris) responses to playback calls of conspecifics and heterospecifics. Ethology 115: 928-938.

Tufts, D.M., Natarajan, C., Revsbech, I.G., Projecto-Garcia, J., Hoffmann, F.G., Weber, R.E. et al. 2015. Epistasis constrains mutational pathways of hemoglobin adaptations in high-altitude pikas. Molecular Biology and Evolution 32: 287-298.

Weston, M.L. 1981. The Ochotona alpina complex: a statistical re-evaluation. In: K. Myers, and C. D. MacInnes (eds), Proceedings of the World Lagomorph Conference, Guelf University Press, Guelph, Ontario.

Zgurski, J.M. and Hik, D.S. 2012. Polygynandry and even-sexed dispersal in a population of collared pikas, Ochotona collaris. Animal Behavior 83: 1075-1082.

Zgurski, J.M. and Hik, D.S. 2014. Gene flow and the restoration of genetic diversity in a fluctuating collared pika (Ochotona collaris) population. Conservation Genetics 15: 37-48.

Citation: Lanier, H. and Hik, D. 2016. Ochotona collaris. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2016: e.T41257A45182533. . Downloaded on 09 December 2016.
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