The American pika is a small mammal that inhabits fields fringed by suitable vegetation in alpine and subalpine mountain areas extending south from central British Columbia and Alberta into the Rocky Mountains of New Mexico and the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California. The historical range of the species includes California, Nevada, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico.
A key characteristic of the American pika is its temperature sensitivity; death can occur after brief exposures to ambient temperatures greater than 77.9 °F. Therefore, the range of the species progressively increases with elevation in the southern extents of its distribution. In Canada, populations occur from sea level to 9,842 feet, but in New Mexico, Nevada, and southern California, populations rarely exist below 8,202 feet.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has completed an in-depth scientific status review of the American pika to determine if the species should be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
We analyzed potential factors that may affect the habitat or range of the pika including climate change, livestock grazing, invasive plant species and fire suppression and determined climate change to be the primary threat to the species.
To help us understand and forecast the potential impacts of climate change on pika populations in the western United States, we worked with NOAA to develop local-scale models to help predict the variables in surface temperatures that could affect pika populations.
Using this information, we conducted a risk assessment to determine if increased surface temperatures would affect the pika and found that although the American pika could potentially be impacted by climate change, we believe the species as a whole will be able to survive despite higher temperatures in a majority of its range. We believe the pika will have enough high elevation habitat to ensure its long-term survival.
Based on this information, we do not believe the American pika is in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future.
- Federal Register Notice: February 5, 2010 12-Month Finding on a Petition to List the American Pika as Threatened or Endangered
- Press Release: February 5, 2010 Endangered Species Act Protection for the American Pika Is Not Warranted
- Questions and Answers
- NOAA Report
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is undertaking an in-depth scientific status review of the American pika to determine if the species should be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The status review initiation does not mean that the Service has decided it is appropriate to give the American pika federal protection under the ESA. Rather, this is the first step in a process that triggers a more thorough review of all the biological information available.
- Press Release May 6, 2009 Fish and Wildlife Service to Conduct Status Review of American Pika
- Federal Register Notice May 6, 2009 90-Day Finding on a Petition to List the American Pika as Threatened or Endangered with Critical Habitat