Pika Project


Photo by Jim Jacobson

Pikas (Ochotona princeps) are the smallest member of the rabbit family. While small in size, however, they have a lot to say about warm temperatures and icy winters. Pikas are adapted to cool alpine environments and occupy a very narrow thermal niche. In other words, they are physiologically incapable of dealing with warm temperatures. High temperatures (80°F ambient temperature) can be lethal to pikas in as little as six hours if they are unable to find cool interstitial spaces in the talus. Pikas have also been found to be sensitive to extremely cold temperatures, possibly a result of reduced snow depths at lower elevation sites. Little is known about pika distributions in Wyoming and the environmental factors that may affect their persistence. Because of their sensitivity to temperature, high detectability and habitat preferences, pikas are excellent indicator species for evaluating biological impacts of environmental change. The Meg & Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund, Teton Science Schools and Nature Mapping have launched a study to better understand how pikas are dealing with a changing thermal landscape.

As a community member, you can help develop a better understanding of pika distributions in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem by reporting pika observations. There are two ways to enter pika observation data; as a trained Nature Mapper, log-in and submit your observation locations as you would any other wildlife observation in Teton County. If you are a professional biologist and have not attended a Nature Mapping training OR your observation is outside of Teton County, Wyoming, you can submit data directly to the Pika Project by using the Pika Observation Form. If you are interested in participating in the pika project, please familiarize yourself with the Pika Project Training Manual. Please also feel free to watch a Smithsonian video with good audio on pika calls.

Since launching the database in July 2009, we have processed over 640 volunteer observations in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana (as of March 2012). If you're heading into pika habitat, take note of locations (UTM coordinates) where you observe pikas, haypiles or scat. To make data collection easier in the field, print off the Pika Field Form below. We will post updated distribution maps as the study progresses! Project partners include Meg and Bert Raynes Wildlife Fund, Nature Mapping Jackson Hole/ Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation, 1% for the Tetons, Teton Science Schools, Grand Teton National Park, Yellowstone National Park, US Forest Service, Wyoming Game & Fish Department, The Craighead Environmental Research Institute and US Geological Survey.

If you have questions or would like to get more involved in the Pika Project, contact Embere Hall, Graduate Research Assistant, Wyoming Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit by email OR 307.413.2253.


Pika Observation Form

Pika Field Form

Training Manual