How Climate Change Could Be Killing One Of The Cutest Mammals In Idaho

Nov 23, 2015

The American pika lives in higher elevations in Idaho, as well as the Craters of the Moon National Monument. But the population has seen a steep decline in recent years, which scientists attribute largely to climate change.
Credit Jim Jacobson

Scientists are paying close attention to the ways in which climate change may be impacting wildlife. In Idaho, one of the mammals dealing with the effects of changing conditions are American pikas. 

Pikas are related to rabbits and live in Rocky Mountains states. The curious animals, which have a distinctive call, can be spotted in places like the Sawtooths. They also hang out in the recesses of the Craters of the Moon National Monument.

Well, for now at least.

According to U.S. Geological Survey ecologist Erik Beever, pikas are in big trouble – especially in Great Basin mountain ranges. Beever says the animals are becoming more and more scarce.

“Temperatures where they’ve been lost from are warmer in the summer and cooler in the winter," says Beever. "The 'cooler in the winter' is a function of not having an insulating cover of snow.”

The ecologist says a 2003 study created alarm on the connection between climate change and pikas. But in 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to list the mammal under the Endangered Species Act.

Read more about Beever's research on pikas here.

Find Frankie Barnhill on Twitter @FABarnhill

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