Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Feds to consider protection for American pika

San Francisco (AP) — The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will
consider whether to protect a rabbit-like, alpine creature known as
the American pika because of habitat loss.

The decision comes in an agreement announced Thursday with the
Center for Biological Diversity and Earthjustice. The groups sued
in August to protect the so-called “boulder bunny” under the
federal Endangered Species Act.

The government has until May to decide if protection is
warranted, said Diane Katzenberger, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service spokeswoman.

If the government decides there is enough evidence that the pika
is indeed imperiled, the agency will conduct further research to
decide if it should be federally protected, Katzenberger said.

Environmentalists say the pika is losing its cold, high-altitude
habitat because of global warming. The American pika cannot survive
in warm climate and has been moving to higher elevations as
temperatures at lower elevations rise.

Currently pika live on the slopes of high mountains in Montana
and other western states, in addition to British Columbia and
Alberta, Canada.

“Pikas are unique among mammals in that they are extremely
vulnerable to hyperthermia – or heat stroke – at relatively low
temperatures,” the groups’ lawsuit states.

The suit says that the pika’s thick fur, which protects it from
severe cold, also limits its ability to dissipate heat.

“As temperatures rise, pika populations at lower elevations are
being driven to extinction, pushing pikas farther upslope until
they have nowhere left to go,” said Shaye Wolf, a biologist at the
Center for Biological Diversity.

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