American Pika (Ochotona princeps)
- Pikas are small mammals related to rabbits
- Pikas live in boulder fields surrounded by meadows on mountain peaks. They avoid the summer heat by seeking the cool crevices under the boulders and by remaining inactive during warm periods.
- Despite the long, cold, snowy winters at high elevations, pikas do not hibernate.
- Pikas spend summers diligently gathering flowers and grasses and store them in “haypiles” for food to sustain them through the long winters.
- Pika weigh only a third of a pound, and must collect more than 60 pounds of vegetation to survive the winter.
- Global warming threatens pikas by shortening the time available for them to gather food, changing the types of plants that grow where they live, reducing the insulating snowpack during winter, and, most directly, causing the animals to die from overheating.
Watch: Interview with Forest Service research ecologist Connie Millar. Millar's research indicates that pika may be more resilient and adaptable than previously thought. New populations of the species have recently been found in the periphery of its known range in Nevada and elsewhere in the Great Basin in locations that are both lower in elevation and warmer than the norm for pika.
Watch: Pika and restoration: Connie Millar, USFS, and USGS' Erik Beever
Petition to list the pika as threatened under the Endangered Species Act
2009 Press Release from the Center for Biological Diversity
Read a copy of the petition filed in state court:
February 5, 2010
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that endangered species listing is not warranted for the American pika. Although acknowledging that the pika is potentially vulnerable to the effects of climate change in portions of its range, the agency interpreted recent scientific evidence as an indication that pikas will probably be able to survive despite warmer temperatures.