The American Pika – A Charismatic Mini-fauna!

April Craighead and Mimi Matsuda

Essay by April Craighead;

Art:  “Pika“, by Mimi Matsuda;

Excerpt: Anyone who has spent time in the alpine areas of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem has heard the tell-tale “eep” of the American pika (Ochotona princeps); a denizen of mountains and wilderness. This captivating bundle of energy patrols a single territory, signals danger with its powerful cry and frenetically gathers “hay” or vegetation in the summer to store for a long and dangerous winter.  Pikas do not hibernate but rely on the reserves of hay to feed them through the winter season. Sadly, the pika may be one of the first terrestrial species to become a victim of climate change due to its intolerance to warming temperatures and changes in snowpack.  The problem for pikas is that they already live at the top of the mountains and they have nowhere left to go.


April Craighead

Author April Craighead has been working at the Craighead Institute as a wildlife biologist since 2000. April received her Master’s degree from Montana State University on the food habits of three avian predators in Yellowstone National Park. For the past ten years April has been working almost exclusively on American pikas and how their populations will change under a changing climate. April spends as much time as possible in the mountains where she feels most at home and alive. She lives with her husband, Lance and daughter, Willow and their dog and cat in Bozeman, Montana.


Mimi Matsuda

Mimi Matsuda is a full time artist living in Bozeman, Montana. After graduating from college with a degree in biology, she worked her dream job in the National Parks, as a National Park Ranger Naturalist for Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks. Using her artwork to connect people with the natural environment led her to a new career as a full-time artist. Today she paints to encourage people to emotionally connect with nature, sometimes through sheer beauty, sometimes through humor. Mimi’s whimsical art evolved from several interests. “I’ve always loved science, sports, conservation, and the universality of humor. People can identify with the imagery and put themselves in the animals’ situation. It’s a different kind of wildlife watching. The humor in my art seems to cross boundaries of age and culture. If people have an emotional connection to the natural world, which is easy through humor, it is my hope they will care enough to save it.”