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.
Between 2008 and 2011, Earthjustice brought a series of lawsuits on behalf of the Center that succeeded in forcing both the federal and California wildlife agency’s to consider and address the evidence that pika are threatened by global warming.
Despite these victories, both agencies continue to maintain that pika do not warrant legal protection. We remain committed to ensuring that pikas receive the protection they deserve, and we have been working with the Center to build the scientific record.