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.

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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