, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 277-285

Responses of pikas (Ochotona princeps, Lagomorpha) to naturally occurring terrestrial predators

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Summary

The responses of individually marked pikas (Ochotona princeps) to terrestrial predators were investigated in 1980 and 1981 in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Pikas uttered short call vocalizations in a variety of contexts: preceding or following an individual's movement, and in response to conspecifics, other nonpredaceous mammals and predators. Adult pikas apparently discriminated contexts in which predators were present by short calling more frequently and for longer duration compared with calling in nonpredator contexts. Short calls uttered by juveniles were similar in all contexts.

Adults responded differently to two types of terrestrial predators: weasels and pine martens. Pikas called less frequently in response to weasels than to martens and avoided weasels more often than martens. They delayed the initiation of calling following the first sighting of a weasel more often than to martens. Weasels were determined to be more effective predators of pikas than martens, and these asymmetries in behavior and alarm vocalizations may indicate that responses reduce an individual's risk of predaton by weasels.

Both male and female pikas called in response to predators, and residents called more often than nonresidents. The possible function of predator-related vocalization in pikas is discussed. It is suggested that calls to predators may function to warn local residents, which in pikas are usually closely related.