About The American Pika

     The American Pika (Ochotona princeps) is a diurnal species of pika that is found in the mountains of western North America, usually in boulder fields at or above tree line. The American pika is a small, herbivorous and conspicuously cute mammal related to rabbits and hares.  The pika is adapted to the cold climate in high-elevation boulder fields and alpine meadows in the mountains of the American west.  The very adaptations that have allowed this species to survive however make pikas extra sensitive to the changes wrought by global warming.  Rising temperatures threaten pikas by shortening the period available for them to gather food, changing the types of plants in the alpine meadows where they feed, shrinking the size of alpine meadows, and reducing the insulating snow pack that protects them from cold snaps in the winter.  Most directly, warming can also cause the animals to die from overheating.

      To save the pika from demise, in August 2007 the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) petitioned the state of California to list the five California American pika subspecies as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act.  Less than two months later, the CBD submitted another petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to list the full species as federally endangered.  The California Fish and Game Commission denied the petition, and the Fish and Wildlife Service failed to take action, so the CBD hauled both agencies to court in August 2008.  In 2009, a judge ruled that the Commission must reconsider the listing petition.  After the Commission denied protection once again, the CBD filed suit a second time that same year.  Despite clear scientific evidence that the pika is threatened with extinction by global warming, in early 2010 the Service declared it would not protect the species.

     Designating the pika as endangered would help protect the species from direct harm and would also require the protection of the habitat necessary for the pika’s survival and recovery. Just as importantly, the species’ protected status would be a strong call to action against global warming.