BEACON TRANSCRIPT – The Ochonta princeps or as it is most commonly known, the American pika, is a diurnal species of this animal mostly found in the mountain range of the western North America. However, this tiny animal, almost unanimously seen as cute, might under threat from climate change.
The American Pika, Once Considered of Least Concern, Now Under Threat?
This tiny animal, once known as the “little chief hare”, are herbivores and mostly feeds on grass and wildflowers. They are the smaller relatives of hares and rabbits.
A team of researchers searched and monitored pikas in the northern Sierra Nevada mountains in California in between 2011 to 2016. In these mountains, the tiny animals usually live in their lower elevations.
As the temperatures start increasing, they move up the mountains to colder environments.
However, according to the new report, this might no longer be an option. As the temperatures start increasing, even higher altitude regions seem to be becoming too hot for this colder-weather
loving animal. Their becoming over-heated can seemingly lead to the death of pikas.
The study team states that they found numerous pika pellets buried in the ground. However, the region seemed to no longer be holding any alive American pika.
The report states that pikas can still be found in their other locations, including in areas around Lake Tahoe and even as far north as the Pacific Northwest.
Nonetheless, the impact of their disappearance in the Sierra Nevada should not be undervalued, warn the researchers.
“If we allow pikas to disappear, we are depriving future generations of the opportunity to enjoy their presence. Pikas are also part of the food chain. They are prey to species like owls, weasels, coyotes, and hawks,” tells Joseph Stewart.
He is the lead author of the study and a UC Santa Cruz Ph.D. candidate. This research also suggests that, should the current trends continue, the changing climate could lead to a 97 percent reduction of the habitat of the American pika by as soon as 2050.
Study results are available in a paper in the journal PLOS One.
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