lesson plans and activities

Animal Interactions - Pikas & their Predators

Animal Interactions - Pikas & their Predators

In this activity related to ecology, ecosystems, predator-prey relationships, energy food chains, and populations, you will play a game to see how weasels control the size of the pika population and how pikas control the size of the weasel population.  Using math, you'll also calculate how populations can change.

 

Suggested Age Group: Ages 10-17

Activity Time: 45-60 min

Prep Time:  5-10 min

PIKAS: TO EAT OR BE EATEN

One of Colorado’s most amazing (and adorable) small mammals, is the pika, an animal that lives near the top of mountains. If you go on a hike and you're lucky, you can observe them gathering food. But pikas can also be food for other animals.

In particular, pikas are sometimes caught and eaten by an animal called a long-tailed weasel. With its long narrow body, it is one of the few animals that can go in between the boulders where pikas like to hide. 

Animals, like the weasel, hunt and eat other animals are called “predators”. Animals that get eaten by other animals, like the pika, are called “prey”.  A group of animals of the same type, who live in the same place at the same time are called a “population”. 

In this activity, you will play a game to see how weasels control the size of the pika population and how pikas control the size of the weasel population.

Materials 

  • chalk                                                                                           
  • meter stick (or something similar in length)
  • pencil or pen 2 colors
  • 50 index cards (representing pikas)
  • 20 sheets of heavy construction paper (8.5”x11”) (representing long-tailed weasels

At-Home Alternatives

  • 3”x5” pieces of paper (instead of index cards)
  • String or tape (instead of chalk—painter’s tape doesn’t stick to carpets)
  • Long object the length of a yardstick (instead of a meter stick)
  • File folders (instead of heavy construction paper)

Learning Outcomes

At the completion of this activity the student should be able to:

  1. USE a model to INFER how predator-prey relationships effect population sizes
  2. COLLECT & RECORD data in a preset table
  3. GRAPH data on a two-axis graph
  4. ANALYZE & INTERPRET a graph to make claims about cause and effect in predator-prey relationships
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