YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK — High above a silver-blue mountain lake, a gray-bearded man tromped up a rocky slope and peered at a small metal trap. It was empty.
He kept moving, scrambling across huge granite boulders and found another trap. This time, success: "We got something," he said.
Jim Patton, a retired professor of zoology at the University of California at Berkeley, had his quarry: the tiny, ash-gray alpine chipmunk, a Sierra Nevada native that is one of the leading sentinels -- and apparent victims -- of climate change in the United States.
One century ago, alpine chipmunks owned the upper half of Yosemite. They skittered under logs and darted across rocks from the rugged Sierra crest down to the conifer forests at 7,800 feet. Today, they are missing in action lower than 9,800 feet.
"It's lost half its geographic range," Patton said. "Climate is the culprit. I don't think there is any iota of reason not to think that."
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