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ALERT: American Pikas are Disappearing and Climate Change is to Blame

Aug 31, 2016 05:10 AM EDT
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One of the cutest animals in the U.S. is on the verge of disappearing and habitat loss due to climate change is the culprit.

Live Science reports that the American Pikas are small herbivores known as taluses and usually live in the rocky slopes across the West's mountain ranges. The pikas' numbers are now slowly dwindling, a new research reveals.

The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) conducted a study to understand how factors of climate change affect the habitat of this species to survive. This journal shows that the authors of the study performed surveys on American Pikas (Ochotona princeps). The researchers studied these adorable pikas from 2012 to 2015.

In the study, researchers found out that the decline of pikas' population in the area is caused by the changes in their habitats, which are now drier and hotter in summer. During a harsher winter, the species' burrows are not protected due to less snow.

"It is certainly clear that changes we have observed in pika distribution are primarily governed by climate, given that nearly all of our climate-related predictions have been borne out," study lead author Erik Beever, a research ecologist at the USGS, said in a statement.

The survey also reveals a sad reality that in Zion National Park in Utah, there are no sightings of American pikas since 2011. Meanwhile, only a quarter is left in Cedar Breaks National Park in Utah, while there are only 11 out of 29 confirmed habitats of pikas are found in northeastern California.

In an article posted in The Guardian, the research proves that climate change is indeed posing a real risk to the animal, according to Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity in Arizona. He also mentioned that the research can now help those who petitioned for the American pikas to be declared endangered. By putting them under this list, there is still a chance for the future generations to see these adorable animals in the mountains.

"It's gotta be one of the cutest animals in North America. It's like a cross between a bunny rabbit and prairie dog," Greenwald said.

Even President Barack Obama mentioned the pika's predicament during his talks in Yosemite National Park last June this year. Even though the study does not state how many American pika are in the country, the animals still thrive in some areas including Columbia River Gorge in Oregon and Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Still it wasn't encouraging.

"It's not that they've just moved, they are gone all together," Beever said, The Guardian reports.

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