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How to help researchers track pika in Colorado

The American pika's endangered status is listed as a "State Special Concern" by Colorado Parks & Wildlife.

DENVER — A new app allows anyone interested to report American pika sightings in Colorado and help researchers collect key data for the species listed as a "State Special Concern" by Colorado Parks & Wildlife (CPW).

The Colorado Pika Project is a collaborative research project involving community scientists across Colorado, and is managed by Denver Zoo and Rocky Mountian Wild.

The project has been monitoring the animals in Rocky Mountain National Park, the White River National Forest and the Front Range over the course of several years.

>The video above is from August 2021.

Through long-term monitoring, the goal of the project is to investigate the potential impacts of climate change to pika and Colorado's alpine ecosystems. The data is provided to researchers and land managers, and is also used to educate and engage Coloradans in conservation and the local impacts of climate change.

There are two ways to get involved with the project:

  • Surveying for pikas at long-term monitoring sites
  • Using the Pika Patrol app to record pika observations at any location

Before visiting a site, anyone interested in participating is required to attend field training to learn to collect reliable and useful data. The next training sessions are scheduled to take place in 2023.

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The russet potato-sized mammals live in mountain talus fields, spending the warmer months building haystacks with flowers and grass, then living beneath the snowpack, munching on that food during the winter.

Pikas can't survive more than an hour in temperatures at or above 70 degrees, according to Alex Wells, who is the community science coordinator at Denver Zoo and one of the directors of the Colorado Pika Project. They scurry below boulders to cool down, but the longer they're down there, the less time they have to forage. Then, in the winter, they rely on snow to insulate them. Wells said he worries that as snowpack continues to shrink and the snow melt starts earlier and earlier, pikas could be in danger of freezing to death -- in especially cold months. 

More information about getting involved with the project can be found on Pika Partner's website.

RELATED: As species recover, some threaten others in more dire shape

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