Looking at Climate Change
Part III: PiKAS
Defenders of Wildlife, an “organization [that] has evolved to take on the task of preserving our nation’s native wildlife species and habitats”, is closely monitoring American Pikas, which are 3 3/4 – 4 ½ ounce “hamster-sized animals that live in some of the coldest regions of the world, mainly the mountains and steppes” as stated in one of their articles titled “Climate Change and the Pika”.
Pikas require cool temperatures and are in danger due to global warming heating up their mountain habitats, since pikas keep their coats year-round. Defenders of Wildlife further explain, “Suitable pika habitat is restricted to regions of less than 30 days per year above 95°F. They keep their warm winter coats year-round, and are thus very sensitive to air temperatures above about 75oF. Long exposure to these temperatures kills them outright."
"The climate warming we have experienced over the last century is already having an effect, particularly in the southern part of their range – New Mexico, Nevada, California and Utah. Nearly a third of the populations in the Great Basin region have vanished in recent years.” Since Pikas live at such high levels of altitude, when their habitats heat up, there is simply no where else for them to go.
© Company of Adventurers
In an article titled, “Feeling the Heat: The Impact of Global Warming on California’s Wildlife and What We Can Do Now to Help Species Adapt and Survive”, Defenders of Wildlife states, “Scientists predict that rising temperatures could affect as much as 70 percent of the snow pack in the Sierra Nevada by the end of this century."
"As a result, the pika, a relative of the rabbit that thrives on steep, rocky slopes, may be one of the first mammals in California to become extinct because of global warming-- Rising temperatures from global warming threaten to shorten the period during which these “rock rabbits” can gather food, shrink their meadow foraging habitat, change the types of plants available for them to eat and reduce the snow pack that protects them in winter.”
© US Fish & Wildlife Service
According to Wikipedia, carnivorous animals such as eagles, hawks, coyotes, bobcats, foxes, and weasels depend upon this animal as a food source. When this animal declines in population and faces possible extinction, it places other predators in danger!
"Reasons for hope: Most pika habitats are in some state of federal ownership. Some are in national parks, where they are well protected from disturbance, hunting, and grazing. Management changes in other parts of their range, like national forests, may be able to help pika survive. Also, some evidence indicates that as daytime temperatures rise, pikas are capable of changing their behavior to be active more during the cooler dawn and dusk, so they can persist as long as they have access to cool burrow areas."
© US Fish & Wildlife Service
To me, Defenders of Wildlife are Defenders of Hope: hope for our land, hope for our animals, hope for us all. This organization closely monitors our wildlife so that we can make changes to save not only our land but the animals dependent upon it... before a species becomes extinct.
In order to help wildlife “Adapt and Survive - What We Can Do Now”, Defenders of Wildlife suggests the following:
1- Identify actions needed to help wildlife adapt to and survive climate change challenges.
2- Urge wildlife-managing agencies to adjust their land-use permitting processes and resource management plans to incorporate actions to mitigate potential negative impacts of climate change.
3- Establish partnerships that allow state agencies also to work on private and federal lands to ensure connectivity between core wildlife populations is maintained to cover any expected migration of species out of protected areas.
© Wendy Shattil & Bob Rozinski/naturepl.com
One is more likely to hear a pika before he sees him
due to their “piercing squeaks”, which they use to defend their territories,
as noted in an article from Defenders Magazine, titled, “Species Spotlight: Pika”.
Defenders of Wildlife Literary References:
“What is man without the beasts?
If all the beasts were gone,
man would die from a great loneliness of spirit.
For whatever happens to the beasts,
soon happens to man.
All things are connected.”