Thanks to Pika Country: Climate Change at the Top of the World by Dorothy Hinshaw Patent & Marlo Garnsworthy, I am now enlightened. The pika, also know as a rock rabbit, is yet another version of a canary in a coal mine. It requires cool summer temperatures to forage for food, (mostly grasses that dry to become hay) and stockpile enough to stay alive all winter.
"Pikas are specially adapted to live in the chilly alpine environment among
the rocks and plants.
"In fact, pikas are usually only found in the mountains where the temperatures
are cool. In temperatures warmer than 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius), pikas quickly overheat and die."
Pika Country, illustrated with photographs by skilled nature photographer Dan Hartman, is a picture book with intimate images of the pika barking, leaping, squeezing into a small rock crevasse, and carrying a mouthful of vegetation. How did he ever get those shots? Obviously, he had to be there, be ready and be patient.
The poor pika is prey to mountain mammals, like the weasel and fox and raptors, including the golden eagle and the prairie falcon. Added to its woes, its habitat is shrinking due to climate change. Where can you go when you're at the top of the hill and there's no more "up" to go?
The authors are exceptionally good at explaining the predicament by including many other alpine animals and trees that will be wiped out when mountain tops warm up.
They also include an excellent explanation of climate change and what kids (and caring adults) can do to slow down climate change. Maybe it will also create the demise of the winter olympics?