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Pikas Can Run But Not Hide From Climate Change

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View Kari Birdseye's blog posts
03 January 2012, 2:49 PM
California seeks to protect tiny creature from a warming earth

You’re adorable but you will die if the temperature rises much above 80°F. So climate change is a big deal in your world, which just happens to be high mountain peaks. Who are you?

You are the American pika, a small member of the rabbit family that the California Dept. of Fish and Game has agreed to designate as a candidate for protection under the California Endangered Species Act (ESA). It’s the first step towards full protection in the state. The DFG is now seeking public comment on a proposal to list the pika as an endangered or threatened species.

Back in February 2010, the pika population was denied ESA protections by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Also, California denied a petition for ESA protections brought about by the Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice. The state reconsidered when CBD and Earthjustice sued in 2009.

Since 2007, evidence has grown, showing that the pika is threatened by climate change. Rising temperatures have mostly driven pikas from warmer, lower-elevation regions of California, including the Bodie Hills of the eastern Sierra Nevada and the Lassen region of northern California. Pika populations in the Great Basin mountains of Nevada and southern Oregon are also shifting rapidly to higher elevations.

These losses and relocations have been linked to rising temperatures and loss of snowpack due to climate change. Three separate studies found that global warming will virtually eliminate habitat for the pika in California in this century if greenhouse gas emissions are not drastically reduced.

Earthjustice will remain tenacious in protecting the pika and fighting the causes of climate change. Your comments asking that the pika be protected can be submitted by email to

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