Disappearing Pika

Shot of the Month – November 2016

Pika, Yellowstone NP (6242)

For someone who doesn’t believe in climate change then karma would dictate that said person be reincarnated as a Pika.  But before we get to the hot topic at hand, what the heck is a Pika you might ask.  I think Pika is an acronym for Probably the most Incredibly Kute Animal.  Though, I might be wrong on that.

The Pika is an incredibly cuddly and cute fur ball found amongst the highest mountain ecosystems around the world.  “Fur ball” is pretty accurate as a Pika’s body is quite round and she doesn’t have a tail.  There are about 30 species of Pika in the world (mainly Asia, North America, and parts of Eastern Europe) with one species found in the United States.  The American Pika can be found in Colorado, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, California and New Mexico.  The fine lass (could be a chap, I have no way of knowing) above was photographed in Yellowstone NP.

The Pika is well adapted to surviving in alpine mountain ecosystems which are typically windswept, treeless and frigid.  The alpine zone only represents about 5 percent of the planet’s surface and thanks to climate change, this habitat is disappearing fast.  As the mountain tops warm the vegetation changes, the snow pack melts and new predators and pests move in.  Most mountain habitats in the Western US have warmed by at least 1 degree F in the last hundred years.  In the next hundred years the temperatures are expected to rise by another 4.5 to 14 degrees.

Pikas literally cannot take the heat.  Expose a Pika to temperatures above 78 degrees and she will die within six hours.  Yes, really.

In Oregon and Nevada Pikas have disappeared from 1/3 of their previously known habitat.  Since the early 1900’s the Pika has disappeared from 8 of the 25 U.S. mountain ranges where they previously lived.  Pikas keep climbing higher but once they reach the top of the mountains, they can’t go any higher to escape the deadly heat.

Expect to see the Pika on the Endangered Species list soon.  And given current trends, the Pika may become the first known species in the US to go extinct from climate change.


As they say, karma is a b****.


Until next month….m


Nikon D4S, Nikon 600mm w 1.4x TC (@ 850mm), 1/750s, f/5.6, ISO 720