American pikas, a pint-sized rabbit relative, are quickly losing their California mountain habitat to climate change, according to new research.
Perching Pika by HerrHaller.deviantart.com
A pika (Ochotona collaris) with a Potentilla sp. (cinquefoil) flower in its mouth. Potentilla, the genus it is carrying, is quite high in tannin concentration, so this pika is likely storing this plant (except the flower) for long-term storage, to eat later in the winter.
Pikas live in rock and talus slopes in alpine meadows that provide them with nest sites and fodder. They don't store enough body fuel to hibernate. Instead they cut , dry and store large amounts of hay from mountain meadows to see them through the long winter months.
Pikas are unique residents of the alpine ecosystem. Members of the order Lagomorpha, they are closely related to rabbits and hares. Pikas are diurnal and do not hibernate. They store their food in small piles of "hay" under rocks in the rock slides and talus slopes that they live in. Common Name: American Pika Specific Name: Ochotona princeps August 7, 2010 - Clear Creek County - Summit Lake, Mount Evans Wilderness
About American Pikas, article by the National Park Service
The small, alpine mammal has been at the center of a prolonged debate over whether to list it under the Endangered Species Act. If the pika ultimately wins endangered status it would be the first species to do so with climate change cited as a major factor contributing to its decline.
The American pika is considered an indicator species for detecting ecological effects of climate change.
Pikas in Peril - links to resource briefs and park-specific handouts. By the National Park Service