Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

Climate change threatens tiny pika at Rocky Mountain National Park

February 16, 2010, 7:55 am

The tiny pika, the chirping denizen of high alpine talus slopes throughout the Rockies and in Rocky Mountain National Park, won’t be protected under the Endangered Species Act even as some pika populations disappear because of climate change.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Feb. 5 that the pika, a relative of the rabbit, will not make the endangered species list because some populations continue to thrive even as others are declining.

Biologists at Rocky Mountain National Park last fall said some of the parks’ pikas are disappearing possibly because of climate change, but only at low elevations.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, the pika is extremely sensitive to warm temperatures and colonies are being found at higher and higher elevations.

But the agency said climate change was only a “potential” threat to the animal.

The Colorado Division of Wildlife and the University of Colorado are conducting separate studies of Colorado pika populations in Rocky Mountain National Park and elsewhere in the Front Range. So far, they are finding that pikas have ample good habitat in the region, said park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson.

Of seven historic pika locations in the park, the two lowest-elevation populations disappeared last year, while the others have remained unchanged, she said.

Final results of the studies are still several years away, she said.

“Pikas not being listed is certainly not going to stop our desire to continue research in the park to learn more about their habitat and how climate change might be impacting them,” Patterson said.