This stocky little animal with the Roman nose is about 18 cm (7 in.) long. It has a tail, but it is so short it doesn't show.
Diurnal in its habits, the American pika appears in early morning and disappears into its grass-lined nest (hidden in rock crevices) shortly after sunset. The pika spends considerable time sunning itself on a favourite lookout rock, against which its salt-and-pepper coat is difficult to distinguish.
The American pika remains active under the snow throughout the winter, where it forages on cushion plants and lichens. During severe winters it also feeds from its stored hay pile. The hay pile is made up of grasses and sedges that were dried the previous summer and cached. During long or particularly harsh winters the hay piles provide crucial supplementary food.
Although it is preyed upon by eagles, hawks, bears and foxes, the American pika's most dangerous foe is the ermine because the ermine is capable of following the pika into its rocky tunnels.
The American pika is found in the mountain regions of western Alberta, British Columbia and Yukon, where it is often restricted to the slopes of mountains. Distinct populations are separated by mountain valleys.