【Series】 Spirits of the Kamuy landscape

In this series, the transformation of four seasons will be introduced through articles on wild animals that are active in the deep forests, marshes, and ocean as if they were being cradled by “Kamui,” which means deity in the Ainu language. The first installment in the series is the Yezo sika deer of Notsuke Peninsula. (Text and photographs by Tadanobu Shigeru from the Kushiro Branch News Secti

Sep. 20

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【Series】Spirits of the Kamuy landscape (45) Pika relaxes with tummy up in the air

A pika sunning itself in a relaxed pose

To escape the midsummer heat, I climbed up to the base of the approximately one thousand-meter tall Mt. Tokachidake. There, along the steep scree slope with small and large rocks piled atop each other, I heard a high pitched “Eeep! Eeep!” cry and saw the approximately 15 centimeter long body of a pika.

In the glacial period over ten thousand years ago, the sea level was lower than it is today and Hokkaido was connected to the continent. When the glacial period ended, the ocean separated Hokkaido from the continent. And it is thought that, as temperatures rose, pikas escaped to the cold mountainous region where they managed to survive.

In very rare occasions, the generally heat-shunning pikas may be attracted by the weather and sun themselves. This pika started out on its side, but gradually moved to laying on its back. It leans its back towards the gap between rocks and relaxes with its tummy pointed towards the sun.

Pets will lie on their backs to attract attention from their owners, but that pose is rarely seen amongst wild animals. Other than the pika, I have only ever seen it in sea otters floating on the water and brown bears when nursing babies.

(Words and photo: Shigeru Tadanobu)

Location

Mt. Tokachidake

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