Pikas, Rabbits, and Hares (Order Lagomorpha)
Pika,Ochotona princeps. (Fig. 12.3) Body length 6.2–8.5 in (15.8–21.6 cm); no visible tail; ears round, much shorter than head, with white edges; fur grayish buff to dark brown. Pikas range from about 8,200 ft (2,500 m) to White Mountain Peak summit, at 14,246 ft (4,340 m), but are most common in the upper elevations above timberline. Like the Yellow-bellied Marmot, they prefer to live on talus slopes bordering alpine meadows, where they forage on grasses and forbs. Pikas may be seen carrying food in their mouths from feeding areas to their burrows among the talus; there they stack the food into "haypiles" for subsistence during the winter. Pikas and their relatives, rabbits and hares, are active year-round. Pikas can be located by listening for their distinctive eenk-eenk call. Pika calls may signal approaching predators or represent territorial and mating displays. An annual molt produces a mottled coloration of the fur. Pikas are eaten by weasels, hawks, falcons, Coyotes,
and other predators. Litter size ranges from one to five, and young are born naked with eyes closed in May or June.
Black-tailed Hare,Lepus californicus . (Fig. 12.4) Head and body 18–25 in (46–63 cm), tail 2–4.4 in (5.0–11.2 cm); ears 3.9–5.7 in (10–14.5 cm); weight 3–7 lb (1.4–3.2 kg); upper surface gray, nearly white beneath; ears with blackish tips; upper side of tail black, running up onto rump, buff gray below. The Black-tailed Hare, also known as the Black-tailed Jackrabbit, ranges from the floor of Owens Valley to about 12,500 ft (3,811 m) but is most common in open, brushy vegetation below
the Pinyon-juniper Woodland. Black-tailed Hares eat a variety of herbs and shrubs and have wide habitat preferences. Predators include Coyotes, eagles, hawks, owls, and snakes. An annual molt takes place in late summer or early fall. The new coat is dark grayish brown and thick; with time the fur lightens and becomes thinner, which aids in heat dissipation in hot weather. Black-tailed Hares can be distinguished from White-tailed Hares in areas where they co-occur by their smaller size and the brownish underside of the tail (the tail of the White-tailed Hare is white). As many as seven young can be born to a litter.
White-tailed Hare,Lepus townsendii . (Fig. 12.5) Head and body 22–26 in (56–65 cm), tail 2.6–4.3 in (6.6–10.9 cm); ears 3.7–4.8 in (9.5–12.2 cm); weight 5–10 lb (2.3–4.5 kg); grayish brown in summer, white in winter; tail white. White-tailed Hares (or Jackrabbits) range from about 10,000 ft (3,050 m) up to the summit of White Mountain Peak (14,246 ft, 4,340 m). They are common among sagebrush in open areas and feed on grasses and shrubs. This hare undergoes two annual molts, turning white in winter. This most likely aids in making it less conspicuous to its predators, which include Coyotes, Bobcats, owls, and eagles. One may approach a White-tailed Hare quite easily during the summer months without being aware of it, for its gray-brown coat blends in well with the surrounding rocks and shrubs of the Alpine Zone. As with all hares, the young are born fully furred with the eyes open. Litters can contain eight young and are produced once per year.
Nuttall Cottontail,Sylvilagus nuttalli . (Fig. 12.6) Head and body 13.8–15.4 in (35–39 cm), tail 1.6–2 in (4–5 cm); ears 2.1–2.5 in (5.4–6.4 cm); weight 1.2–1.8 lb (0.5–0.8 kg); grayish brown above, white below; tail hairs white to roots; feet densely covered with long hairs. Also known as the Mountain Cottontail, this rabbit frequents the dense cover of brush in the Pinyon-juniper Woodland and in Sagebrush Scrub. It occurs up to 11,000 ft (3,354 m) and feeds on currants, willows, junipers, sagebrush, and grasses. Predators include Bobcats, hawks, owls, and Coyotes. In
contrast to the hares, the young of rabbits are born naked with the eyes closed. Litter size is about eight.