The Oregon Zoo reports that the Columbia River Gorge’s pika population is recovering after the 2017 Eagle Creek Fire.
Last year, Cascades Pika Watch was awarded a $24,100 Citizen Science grant from the US Forest Service, which they used to survey the number of pikas in the region. Sightings were made at 45 out of 52 locations, a marked increase over the previous year’s results, 18 out of 45.
“We still aren’t seeing numbers as high as before the fire, but things are definitely looking up,” said pika watch coordinator Amanda Greenvoss. “This is great news for our pika population.”
According to Cascades Pika Watch, the American pika is “a sensitive indicator of climate change due to their inability to survive long periods of warm summer weather.” As their mountain habitats become warmer and drier, pika populations are constantly retreating to higher ground.
The pikas of the Columbia River Gorge are thus of especial interest, as they live at the lowest known elevation for the species in the US.
“Due to their small size and their ability to blend in with their rocky habitat, pikas can be really tricky to see — especially if you don’t know what to look for,” said Greenvoss. “We’re fortunate to have dedicated volunteers with Cascades Pika Watch who know how to spot them in the wild.”
By Brandon Urey