Jay Ryser

Lakewood, United States

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Larry the Pika, again.

My mountain goats have practically disappeared for greener meadows. Literally. My last few trips to elevation have been pretty disappointing, goat-wise. I’ve only seen a few goats lately, no yearlings or kids, and the goats I have seen have such ratty looking coats it’s not even worth taking their photos. I haven’t seen a bighorn in weeks.

I don’t think the lack of goats is a permanent thing – they have their own schedule and agenda, and don’t keep me up to date. they’ll be back.

In the mean time, I decided to focus (pun intended) on some of my small critters. The last couple of trips I’ve been making pikas a special project. And fortunately, I’m very familiar with one particular pika – Larry the Pika.

For a pika, he’s pretty accessible. He lives in a talus field, and I’ve spent enough time with him that I’m pretty familiar with his routes and usual perching spots. It’s tough to follow him with a long lens, but it is easy to pre-focus on an established perch and wait for him to assume the position.

I don’t remember if this is him yawning again (although much less scary that the last yawning shot), or if he’s belting out an EEENK. High altitude and low oxygen levels at 14,000ft tend to play havoc with your memory.

When they spot a predator or potential danger (or if you get too close to their little hay bales), they emit a surprisingly loud EEENK. They also keep themselves in harm’s way to alert their neighbors. It’s more common to hear pikas than see them.

Pikas, and marmots to a lesser extent, are considered at risk species due to climate change and global warming. They live on what is essentially a cold island. They are unable to migrate to different locations, as doing so would require them to cross long stretches of excessively hot ground. Their only alternative is to climb higher and higher up the mountain, and there’s only so much mountain to climb. Most pikas spend their entire lives in a half-mile radius. It’s estimated that pikas cannot survive in temps higher than 75F for more than a few hours.

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mammal hibernation pika wildlife alpine

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