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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Connecting People With Nature Connects People With Pikas Thanks to Grants

Region 1, September 28, 2012
Screen shots of websites featuring Pika Watch.
Screen shots of websites featuring Pika Watch. - Photo Credit: n/a
A surface temperature logger deployed where a pika was observed on a rock slide in the Columbia River Gorge.
A surface temperature logger deployed where a pika was observed on a rock slide in the Columbia River Gorge. - Photo Credit: n/a
Pika Watch training given by David Shepherdson of the Oregon Zoo.
Pika Watch training given by David Shepherdson of the Oregon Zoo. - Photo Credit: n/a

People excited about providing outdoor education opportunities for students gathered in a classroom at Columbia Gorge Community College in Hood River, Oregon. They were there to learn about Pika Watch, a citizen science project launched to provide students opportunities to learn about local landscapes and wildlife. The animal in question, the pika, is a small, furry, potato-shaped mammal with Mickey Mouse ears that inhabits rockpiles of the mountainous western United States. The presentation set out to describe the distribution of pikas in the U.S. and the Pacific Northwest, where pikas can be found, how to identify pikas by site and by sound, and why pikas are potentially a good tool to track climate change and changes to montane environments. The attendees listened closely and asked numerous questions, knowing that many of them would eventually be giving this same presentation to their students prior to leading them to look for pikas out in the steep and craggy walls of the Columbia River Gorge. Haypiles were given as a visible example of pika activity to the trainees. Non-hibernating pikas gather and store vegetation in summer haypiles for later winter sustenance. The conversation had moved onto other evidence of pika habitation when the presentation came to a screeching halt. “This is great!” exclaimed Aaron Morehouse, an educator with the Columbia Gorge Ecology Institute. Morehouse explained how the presentation and project would immediately engage the sensibilities of middle schoolers, “I mean looking for pika pellets and urine smears, come on!”

Contact Info: Amanda Fortin, (503) 872-2852, amanda_fortin@fws.gov