Pikas In Peril

Climate change threatens obscenely cute mountain rodents

Move over, polar bears: You've just been out-cuted. The pika, a small, squeaky-voiced rodent that lives above treeline in the Rocky Mountains, could serve as the next mascot for creatures directly under threat of extinction from climate change.

Representatives from Earthjustice and the Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit Tuesday against both the U.S. government and the state of California, demanding that both governments cease releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and protect pika habitat.

Pikas spend most of their summers in alpine meadows gathering food for the long winter, but they're extremely vulnerable to heat, and as temperatures rise, it pushes them up the mountains. If temperatures continue to get hotter, they'll run out of mountain and go extinct.

"Global warming threatens pikas by shortening the time available for them to gather food, changing the types of plants that grow where they live, reducing the insulating snowpack during winter, and, most directly, causing the animals to die from overheating," says CBD.

Scientists say pikas can die within an hour if the ambient temperature around them surpasses 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, population die-offs can serve as effective early warning signs for climate scientists.

The Bush administration thus far hasn't shown any sympathy for regulating CO2 as a pollutant, regardless of the creature or consequence in question. But just take a look at him — can you say no to that face? Nnnno you cant...noooo you cant!

— Ted Alvarez

Pickled Pikas (Grist)