A Day in the Field with American Pika

By: Terri Slivka
July 29, 2016

Terri Slivka releasing a pika
Terri Slivka releasing a pika

I was fortunate to win an auction item at the RMW Bites & Brews for Biodiversity event last fall to participate in a day in the field with pika research guru, Dr. Chris Ray. My date with the pikas began with a beautiful hike in the Indian Peaks Wilderness above Brainard Lake. Chris had been there since 5 a.m. setting traps to capture the wily little critters and came down to get supplies for the lab work to be conducted that day. When we arrived at the study site around 9 a.m., the group checking traps found eight pikas were captured.

Each pika would be given ear tags, checked for fleas and mites, sexed, weighed, given a plague vaccine, swabbed for saliva and plucked for hair samples. Before all these procedures, the pikas were lightly anesthetized for handling, just enough to slow down their wriggling. Each pika was subsequently released at the site it was captured as soon as its examination was complete.

From the photo you can tell that returning the pikas back to the wild was the best part of the research, as we watched them scamper away over the rocks. Chris utilizes the data collected to help determine why the pikas in this area are not faring so well and to gain more information on pikas in general. It was a remarkable experience to work with this passionate, efficient, and professional team for a day, learning about pikas and seeing these adorable furballs in a very up-close and personal way.

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