January 14, 2008

Pikas 'Blinking Out'?

Some scientists want to use the Endangered Species Act to force action on climate change, reports the Denver Post

Their fulcrum species is the pika, a high-altitude version of the rabbit, a/k/a coney or "little haymaker." (It's not a rodent.)

Pushed by warmer weather to ever-higher elevations, the tiny pika is losing real estate at an alarming rate, according to scientists, and is disappearing rapidly from much of its historic territory in the West.

"They've been driven upslope a half mile since the end of the last ice age," said Donald Grayson, an archaeologist and paleontologist with the University of Washington who has documented the presence of pika over the past 40,000 years. . . .

The [Center for Biological Diversity] is suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the pika — along with the polar bear and the ribbon seal — as imperiled by global warming, marking a new legal approach to the Endangered Species Act.


One of my father's and my first backpacking destinations was Shelf Lake above Georgetown, Colo., where while he fished I pursued pikas with a camera.

I was maybe 13 or 14, and the camera was an old Kodak, complete with leather bellows. In fact, it had been his graduation present when he finished forestry school at Fort Collins.

Given the lens available, pikas were good quarry because I could sneak up on them in the boulder fields above the lake.

I haven't given them much thought lately -- and the Southern Rockies populations may not be as threatened -- but maybe next summer I should go looking for them in the Sangres -- with a better camera.

1 comment:

Pat Munday said...

Sad to see, but lots of scientific and anecdotal evidence show pika populations winking out and moving higher upslope.

Pat Munday aka EcoRover
cf. http://ecorover.blogspot.com/2008/01/endangered-species-act-listing-for.html