Woolly Hare
Woolly Hare (Lepus oiostolus) is a species that inhabits the grasslands of the Tibetan Plateau. It can be very plentiful and must be an important prey species for Wolf and Lynx. Both nocturnal and diurnal in habits we tend to find it in grasslands with scrub and longer grasses or on slopes. It is very similar to Tolai but there are general tail differences with Woolly’s being whiter on the top surface and amounts of black tipping to the ears. However, to make certain ID’s we usually rely on distribution and habitat markers, since pelage variations in both species and problems in picking up obvious pointers in the field, especially at night, would otherwise make separation difficult. As a rule of thumb, all hares found on the Tibetan Plateau will be Woolly.

 

Plateau Pika
Plateau Pika (Ochotona curzoniae), also widely known as Black-lipped, could be considered a corner stone to Tibetan Plateau Grassland ecosystems, with vast populations of this animal supporting a host of terrestrial and aerial predators. Living in large colonies, on those parts of grassland that avoid waterlogging and give soil types/depths where the animal can dig its burrow complexes, it’s also one of the easiest to observe and identify. Even during sub-zero winter weather this non-hibernating animal can be seen to be active on the surface. Its presence is also an excellent pointer towards finding other species, Tibetan Fox and Pallas’s Cat are often found in areas that contain this Pika. Unfortunately, the animal has gained a bad reputation with Yak herders who blame it for degrading grazing quality and poisoning campaigns have taken place. However, studies suggest that Pika presence is actually beneficial with grassland erosion mainly triggered by the overstocking/grazing of domestic animals.

 

Plateau Pika
A Plateau Pika in the snow. During winter months they made a valuable source of food for predators.

 

Glover's Pika
Glover’s Pika (Ochotona gloveri) with its distinctive face markings and habit of inhabiting rocky areas is also an easier species to identify. We mainly find it in Qinghai province but have also seen it on Balang Mountain. It is adept at climbing and can seen on ledges. Alternatively, it will use crevices in larger rock piles as a home. It’s a bulky pika, larger than Plateau, and although many animals can be found together, it doesn’t live in large colonies. A China endemic.

 

Thomas's Pika
Thomas’s Pika (Ochotona thomasi) inhabits alpine forest habitats, especially in areas of salix. Here the animal, which lives in individual family groups, digs its burrows around tree roots. Our identifications have been disputed and this animal illustrates how difficult it is to identify certain Pika species without taking specimens, where skull measurements and dental profiling have been the key pointers. This species is very similar to Gansu Pika (Ochotona cansus), but the habitat in which we find this animal in Northern Sichuan, seems very different from the pasture type habitat that is favoured by Gansu. A China endemic.

 

Moupin Pika
Moupin Pika (Ochotona thibetana) is found in Southern Sichuan, especially around the lower areas on the eastern side of Balang Mountain. Our identification has followed after surveys in the area that have carried out skull and dental examination. We find this species utilises crevices in dry stone walling type structures. It lives outside colonies and can be difficult to find. Although pelage looks very different in this photo than the closely related Thomas’s, animals vary, and pelage coloration goes through seasonal changes.

 

Large-eared Pika
Large-eared Pika (Ochotona macrotis) is the identity we have assumed for the animal seen in this photo. Found in Garze prefecture of Sichuan it is similar but different from Glover’s and certain literature suggests that Large-eared Pika is present in this area. We find it almost exclusively around stone piles and it’s most common in Dege County.