August 21, 2009

Feds study climate change effect on pikas

The first-ever study of its kind could help determine if the American pika is at risk of disappearing from western U.S. mountain tops, scientists say.

The pika, a 7-inch-long relative of the rabbit, is found in alpine and sub-alpine areas, where their one-note squeak is considered a signature sound of the rocky landscapes, said Connie Millar, a U.S. Forest Service scientist who studies pika populations.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has said it will decide by February whether to list the pika as an endangered species, The Seattle Times reported Friday.

Pikas live at the highest points of nine western states, including Washington, where a survey is being conducted in North Cascades National Park to determine if climate change is reducing their population, the Times reported.

Climate change is the biggest issue facing our national parks, said Chip Jenkins, park superintendent. What we are doing is looking for key indicators, key species that are likely to be the ones that show the first response to climate change.