I recently bought a book about the natural history of Canadian mammals.
It is chock full of interesting, even astonishing, maybe even useful information, such as the fact that there are some twenty species of bats that call Canada their home, the fact that both the North American Black Bear and the Red Fox have four colour phases and the fact that the Collared Pika is probably going to die.
The Collared Pika is one of two pika species in Canada along with the American Pika.
It is a tiny lagamorph – the same group of mammals as rabbits and hares – residing in Yukon and a tiny pocket of northwest British Columbia.
The animal lives in the ground all winter, deep under the thick snowpack that provides the necessary insulation from the elements – the cold temperatures and frigid winds – of a cruel northern winter that allows it to survive.
Except global warming is making it so the snowpack isn’t quite as thick as it should be anymore.
Global warming is causing Collared Pikas to freeze to death.
Interestingly, as a species so well adapted to life in the frozen north, Collared Pikas are also ill-equipped to survive the warmer temperatures that global warming might bring to a Yukon summer, not to mention the summers farther south if they should try to escape their icy death through mass migration.
The Collared Pika is in a tough spot.
Do you care?
I can understand why the problem might not matter to you. Collared Pikas are small. Their range in Canada is also relatively small. And neither of us is likely to see one. Ever. But it still bothers me immensely that they might disappear from the face of the earth.
I know extinctions happen.
The earth has lost many species in the past and it will lose many in the future, including our precious human race.
But the loss of the Collared Pika would be a tragedy in my mind.
It is partly because they are honest, simple, hardworking creatures, devoting so much of their time and effort to gathering the 20 to 30 kilograms of food each one can gather in a single season despite weighing less than a kilogram, never intruding on our lives as they go about their business.
The same can’t be said for us.
We are deceitful, complex, lazy monsters.
We are loud.
We are obtrusive.
And even if we never see or touch these pikas, we do a masterful job of intruding on their lives on a daily basis.
After all, it is our intrusion on their lives that is killing them through the global warming that is causing them to freeze to death.
Do you care about that?