Pikas in Peril
Above: A pika sounds the alarm near Lake Ann in the North Cascades (photo by Glenn Nelson)
The bottom line for promoting diversity and inclusion in the outdoors is imbuing the impending nonwhite majority in the U.S. with a sense of stewardship about our planet. If folks care about parks, for example, they are more inclined to commit to dealing with, say, climate change.
(NOTE: Clicking on an image will launch a larger-sized gallery).
Like, how about just saving the American pika?
Because of their increased accessibility, pikas easily could supplant the polar bear as the poster animal of the climate-change crisis.
Anyone who has hiked in any measure of altitude is familiar with the pika, if for nothing else than its distinctive call, “Eep!” The small mammals, related to the rabbit, lives in talus (larger rocks) fields in the subalpine and alpine West. The “rock rabbits” spend much of their time gathering vegetation that cures in their dens into “haypiles” for winter sustenance.
And the pika cannot go up, where the harsher cold would be its undoing.
So as temperatures climb, pika habitat, as well as the animals themselves, are disappearing. Scientists have found that 28 percent of pikas in the Great Basin of Nevada have gone extinct, mostly at lower altitudes. The National Park Service is convening the Pikas in Peril Project to study impacts on habitat in eight national-park units (Craters of the Moon, Crater Lake, Great Sand Dunes. Grand Teton. Lava Beds, Lassen Volcanic. Rocky Mountain and Yellowstone).
Though studied for but not yet listed for Endangered Species Act protection, pikas nevertheless are considered an indicator species because their shrinking habitat is among the first, clear consequences of climate change.