About the Mount Shasta Pika Project


In 1898 the United States Government sponsored a biological expedition to Mount Shasta California. The Division of Biology of the United States Department of Agriculture sent a research team under the leadership of C. Hart Merriam. His report, entitled "Results of a Biological Survey of Mount Shasta, California," was published in 1899 and is a classic of Mt. Shasta science. In 1998, having read through the report just for amusement, I came across their section concerning pikas on Mt. Shasta.

Having lived in the area since the mid-1970's and being a biologist by training, I was surprised to read about these creatures on the mountain. Although I had seen pikas before, in the Sierra and the Rocky Mountains, I had never heard of them living on the mountain. I quickly got out my copy of Michael Zanger's book "Climbing Mt. Shasta" because I knew that Michael knew the mountain as well as anyone and had a short section in his book about mammals. There was no mention of pikas. At this point I wondered to myself whether the turn-of-the-century populations still existed at all.

My first pika hunt was a dismal failure. It took me several seasons to get good at recognizing likely locales and to develop enough patience to find the pikas. But, eventually, I found pikas at the original sites of the C. Hart Merriam expedition one-hundred years earlier. In addition, I've found many other pika localities, plotted their distribution on the mountain and have monitored temperatures in pika habitats.
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