Study Seeks To Understand Gorge Pikas
Scientists may be a step closer to understanding one of the cutest enigmas in the Pacific Northwest: the mysterious Columbia Gorge pika. With an assist from the Oregon Zoo Foundation’s Future of Wildlife grant program, a U.S. Geological Survey study has enlisted technicians and more than 175 volunteers to scour the Gorge for these croissant-sized rabbit cousins, whose typically high-altitude habitat makes them vulnerable to climate change. Columbia Gorge pikas are the lowest-elevation pikas in the U.S. The study aims to discover where these “extreme” pikas are — and aren’t — living in the Gorge, and to understand what factors may dictate their distribution. The study will ultimately be used by citizen science groups to measure any future changes that may occur. The three-year study surveyed 50 miles of the Gorge on both sides of the Columbia River and will conclude in September, when the team will retrieve their sensing equipment, but citizen-science pika surveys will continue.