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Rocky Mountain pikas not nearing extinction, study finds

September 1, 2011 | 12:01 am

 

Pika 

A team of researchers from the University of Colorado has concluded that pikas, hamster-sized mammals, are doing better than previously believed, finding the population is holding its own in the southern Rocky Mountains.

The study, in the September issue of the journal Ecology, paints a brighter picture for the species than other surveys, notably a study from Nevada's Great Basin earlier this year in which local extinction rates were found to have increased fivefold in the last decade.

In 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied endangered species status for the rare creature, in part because there was insufficient data about its habitat and population numbers. Pikas are a member of the rabbit family and live in rocky slopes throughout the Rockies.

But scientists, seeing few of the small animals, have surmised that pikas are abandoning former habitats and moving upslope as temperatures rise.

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Pika could be a candidate for endangered listing as a result of global warming

-- Julie Cart

Photo: The American pika is highly sensitive to changes in temperature. Credit: U.S. Geological Survey

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