MONITORING PIKAS IN A CHANGING CLIMATE
American Pikas—small, rodent-like mammals that are most closely related to rabbits and hares—are declining nearly everywhere throughout the west, except in Grand Teton. Pikas live in the interstitial spaces of talus and boulder fields and can tolerate an uncommonly narrow ambient temperature range, which makes them very susceptible to the deleterious effects of climate change. Funding from GTNPF will help researchers conduct studies to better understand why the population of pikas in Grand Teton has not declined like populations that exist in nearby habitats. This will contribute to similar research being conducted throughout the west. It will help land and wildlife stewards better understand, predict, and, in some cases, mitigate the long-term effects of climate change on pikas and other wildlife populations.
In 2023, a team of researchers completed an extensive set of surveys of pika populations in Grand Teton National Park. The surveys covered approximately 115 habitat patches across the park and took place over 30 field days between July and September. The team employed a range of techniques, including park-wide probabilistic surveys to gain a comprehensive understanding of the pika populations in the area.
The researchers found that the vast majority of patches surveyed were currently occupied by pika, with less than ten patches showing signs of old occupancy. Only three patches had no indications of pika presence at all. These findings are crucial for understanding the health and status of pika populations in the park and will help inform future conservation efforts.