The pikas are alive.
This summer, over a hundred volunteers with the Cascades Pika Watch program set out to find out how many pikas survived last September's massive Eagle Creek Fire. The blaze burned most of the mousy mammal's habitat on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge.
The verdict, according to an announcement today from the Oregon Zoo?
"The pint-sized mammals are alive and well," the zoo's release says.
"It's encouraging to see pikas living in this region, even in smaller numbers," Amanda Greenvoss, who oversees the zoo's pika watch program, says.
Oregon's pika population is unique. The animals are typically found in rugged, high-elevation mountain habitats. That means Gorge-area pikas live at a significantly lower elevation than any other pikas in the nation.
Tracking down the small rabbit-family mammals, known for their squeaky calls, wasn't easy.
"Pikas can be difficult to detect because of their small size and their ability to blend in with their rocky habitat, especially if you don't know what to look for," said Greenvoss says. "We're fortunate to have dedicated volunteers with Cascades Pika Watch who know how to spot them in the wild."
It took 112 volunteers 995 hours to collect data. In total, they found pikas in 18 out of 45 sites surveyed.
"An expected decrease from previous years," the release says, "but still promising."
The four-year-old Cascades Pika Watch program used a $24,100 grant U.S. Forest Service Citizen Science to fund pika habitat and population data collection.