Monday, July 20, 2009

Pikas on Pike's Peak

One of my few fun teen memories involves my "senior trip" to Colorado. Since I and all my siblings were home schooled by that time, our parents offered us one special big thing to celebrate our graduations from high school. I chose a family trip to Colorado so that I could hike up Pike's Peak.

When the day came, only my dad and my little brother Harry were going to hike with me. I wasn't jazzed about being with my dad since I've never felt comfortable around him, but eventually Harry and I hiked beyond him and then it was just us two.

Harry and I walking around Garden of the Gods that same week

Harry is the family member I'm closest to. I'm not ashamed to say that I adore him. Even though we're separated in age by four years and one month to the day, we act, think and behave like twins. We are so darn close we can even communicate telepathically - no joke.

Climbing the mountain with my favorite person in the world (at the time) was an incredible experience. I've always found the simple motions of walking physically comforting and mentally stimulating. This was my first real mountain hike and I loved walking from niche to niche, seeing the change in fauna and flora and enjoying the amazing new surprises that greeted my eyes and ears with each hill we topped.

One of the amazing animals I met on this hike was the ever adorable pika. These little guys 'n' gals first made themselves known to me by the high-pitched, guinea pig-like squeaking they do. Walking through several meadows, we heard their call and responses echo around us like a giggling audience. Finally, they felt comfortable enough to sit out in the sun with us around and I saw the cute little buggers and just melted. Cuteness is awesome!

This 3 minute video will show you their cuteness and let you hear them:

Like the video shows, you can get pretty darn close to them without them giving a darn.

Pikas helped make that hike and that day magical for me, and I've always felt a special endearment in my heart to them. So when I saw the Environmental Defense Fund's information about pikas being threatened by climate change I was a very sad panda:

Some may like it hot but not the pika. Even brief exposures (as little as a few hours) at temperatures above 78 degrees F can be fatal. Plus they rely on snowpack for insulation in the winter.

In the southern portions of its range, some populations already occupy the highest altitudes, with no place to move upward to escape the heat.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is currently considering the pika for listing under the Endangered Species Act, which would make it the first mammal in the lower 48 [states] to be listed due to global warming.

Pikas have frequently been described as the ‘canaries in the coal mine’ of alpine and montane ecosystems in the western U.S. – their disappearance is an alarming signal of sweeping climate disruptions.

And, like prairie dogs, pikas are pruners and help maintain the diversity and abundance of alpine meadow plant species.

I'm saddened to think that someday a teenage girl like I was may wander through those same meadows and instead of being full of life and cuteness, there's nothing but patchy growth and little else.

Breaks my heart the things future generations will miss out on that should be part of the natural inheritance they are blessed with in a nation that encloses so many types of life.

Related posts:
Being Zen on the Mountain
Carbon's Gonna Kill Us
Biomimicry For Greener Buildings

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Jessica said...

Pika's are so adorable! I've never seen one before.

I agree with you on how sad it is that future generations might not get to enjoy such wonderful things because of the way people have treated the environment.

How old were you in that picture with Harold? You were so cute!


May said...

I was 17 in that picture