Arts & Entertainment

Everyone loves a pika: introduce your kids to photography

 | November 12, 2010

Several weeks ago, I had the opportunity to introduce wildlife photography to my friends’ children at Manning Provincial Park. Manning Park is located along the Hope/Princeton Highway and is about a three hour drive from Kamloops and 40 minutes from Hope.

This area is a wonderful place for kids to photograph small, fun subjects such as the Columbian ground squirrel, yellow-bellied and hoary marmot, gray jays, spruce grouse and pika. Our time at the park was mainly spent in the sub-alpine meadows, so the creature we were all focused on was the pika.

The pika is a small animal with short limbs, small rounded ears, a short tail and big whiskers. Some might think they resemble a hamster, but in my opinion they’re way cuter as you can see in the photo above. The young pika are especially nice with beautiful tan coloured fur and round little eyes that make them very appealing to all those that observe them. Pikas are also known as rock rabbits or coneys.

Easily found among boulders and rock slides, pika are loads of fun for kids that find them scurrying amongst the rocks and occasionally calling out to other pikas in the neighbourhood with a high pitched “peep”.

Because pikas like the colder temperatures, you won’t find them unless you travel high up to the mountains. At Manning Park, the sub-alpine meadows are easily reached from a well-maintained gravel road from early summer to late fall depending on when the snow arrives. The boulder pile is right alongside the parking area so there are no long hikes. Picnic tables and outhouses are close at hand. Perfect for the kids! Heads up to the parents however, as there was a $3 daily parking fee at time of writing, so keep a few loonies in the car.

Photographing pikas and other small creatures at Manning Park is relatively easy with a small point and shoot camera. There’s no need to worry about a big telephoto lens unless you’re a serious shooter.

For the most part, the smaller creatures at Manning Park are so accustomed to visitors that they often come to you in search of a handout. Sad but true, such is the reality in some of our parks. I suggest avoiding the temptation of feeding anything a tasty treat and pass this non-feeding habit onto your children so we can keep our wildlife wild.

Like all wildlife photography, there may be some waiting and searching involved. As some of you know, patience can sometimes be hard to find in small children. I’m not an authority on kids, but I found that by playing a quick game of, “whoever spots the first pika gets a chocolate covered granola bar,” works very well.

Introducing children to outdoor photography is a great way to get them interested in nature and wildlife and there’s definitely no harm in that. During our little outing, we all came to the agreement that everyone loves a pika!

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