California officials refuse to add pika to endangered list

California officials have rejected a petition to protect the American pika under the state Endangered Species Act.

The pika, a fist-sized relative of the rabbit, lives in high-elevation boulder fields in the Sierra Nevada and is sensitive to warm weather. The Center for Biological Diversity asked the California Fish and Game Commission to protect the species, citing evidence the pika is declining as its habitat shrinks due to climate change.

Shaye Wolf, biologist at the environmental group, offered new studies documenting pika declines at Bodie State Historic Park and Yosemite National Park, with climate change the likely cause. Wolf said listing could protect pika groups from cattle grazing and road building. But the commission found the evidence inadequate. The pika would have become the first species in the lower 48 states to gain protection because of climate change.