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Protecting the Pikas

Case Number # 1806, 1748

The American pika is a small mammal related to rabbits and hares that lives in alpine areas throughout western North America. Pikas are extremely sensitive to high temperatures, and they will die under brief exposure to temperatures above 78–85°F. Because pikas are so vulnerable to high temperatures, scientists regard them as early sentinels of global warming. In fact, many pika populations have already disappeared because of global warming, including at least one group near Yosemite National Park.

Unless significant action is taken to curtail global warming, the pika could become extinct in California by the end of this century. Because of this, the Center for Biological Diversity petitioned the California Fish and Game Commission to list the American pika as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. The Center also petitioned the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list the pika as a threatened or endangered species under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Fish and Game Commission denied the petition, claiming that the Center did not present enough evidence that global warming had contributed to the pika's decline, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service advised the Center that they do not intend to respond to the pika petition within 12 months as required by law. In February 2009, the U.S. FWS agreed to assess whether the pika may warrant protection under the Endangered Species Act, but in February 2010, the U.S. FWS denied ESA protections to the American pika.

In October 2009, Earthjustice filed a lawsuit against the California Fish and Game Commission.

Press Releases

Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Decision acknowledges science showing American Pika is threatened by global warming
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
Climate change destroying pika habitat
Thursday, February 4, 2010
Small alpine mammal declining due to global warming
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
California commission continues to deny protection to wildlife imperiled by climate change
Friday, May 15, 2009
Federal government advanced pika protection last week
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Small alpine mammal imperiled by global warming
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Global warming driving alpine rock rabbit towards extinction
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
State and federal lawsuits filed to protect American pika