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For Immediate Release, May 22, 2013

Contact:  Shaye Wolf, (415) 385-5746, swolf@biologicaldiversity.org

California Denies Protections to Tiny, Climate-threatened Mammals

Wildlife Agencies Downplay Urgency of Climate Crisis in Refusing to Protect Pika
Under California Endangered Species Act

SACRAMENTO, Calif.— The California Fish and Game Commission voted today to deny protection to the American pika under the California Endangered Species Act despite grave threats from global warming. Today’s decision comes in response to a scientific petition submitted by the Center for Biological Diversity in 2007 urging the state to protect the tiny, temperature-sensitive alpine mammal from climate change.

“This short-sighted decision may put these vulnerable little animals on the path to extinction,” said Shaye Wolf, the Center’s climate science director. “The state’s own analysis shows worrisome losses of pikas in drier, hotter parts of California and predicts that global warming will make many areas unlivable for pikas in this century. Our wildlife agencies should acknowledge the urgency of the climate crisis and protect vulnerable species like the pika before it’s too late.”

Spurred by the Center’s petition, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife agreed in 2011 that climate change may threaten the pika and launched a scientific status review. The review, completed earlier this year, found that pikas have vanished from nine of 53 historically occupied sites in California, with disappearances concentrated in drier, warmer, lower-elevation areas.

The review, relying on multiple modeling studies, also found that climate change will largely eliminate suitable habitat for the pika in California’s mountains if greenhouse gas emissions are not drastically reduced. Despite this evidence, the department and wildlife commission concluded that the pika is not currently threatened by climate change.

The America pika, a furry mammal that can grow six to eight inches long, has been widely recognized as a canary in the coal mine for climate change. Pikas inhabit in boulder fields at higher elevations on mountains in California and the western United States. They are vulnerable to rising temperatures in summer and loss of mountain snowpack in winter that exposes them to cold snaps. Just across the California border, scientists have documented alarming losses of pika populations in the Great Basin mountains of Nevada and Oregon that have been attributed to climate change.

“The climate crisis is worsening by the day, and the future will only become grimmer for temperature-sensitive animals like the pika,” said Wolf. “The longer our wildlife agencies delay in taking action for climate-threatened wildlife, the greater the chances we will lose these amazing animals and plants from California forever.”

For more information on the pika visit: http://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/mammals/American_pika/index.html

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 500,000 members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.


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