Yesterday April Craighead at the Craighead Institute and her summer intern Max Lewis headed into the Bridger mountain range in southwestern Montana to begin a study on possible pika populations in the talus slopes that fall away from the popular Bridger Ridge Trail. In the past April has spent time studying pika populations in the Gallatin and Crazy mountain ranges in Montana. She is now focusing on the Bridger Mountain range, where there is no historical evidence of pikas but many anecdotal sightings.
Over the course of the summer April will be moving throughout the range in hopes of collecting data in over thirty potential pika habitats. The locations that she will survey have been found based on both anecdotal evidence and terrain information provided through GIS maps of the area. By surveying potential pika habitats April hopes to verify the species presence in the range. Identification of pikas in the Bridger’s could both confirm anecdotal evidence as well as to allow for monitoring of population persistence as it faces increasing temperatures due to climate change.
Unfortunately during yesterday’s ten hour hike to Mount Baldy and the surrounding talus fields we were not able to identify any historical or recent evidence of pika presence. Although pikas were not found we did record data on a variety of sites on east side of the range, while the west side was inaccessible due a dangerous slope angles. Tomorrow we will head back out into the field to survey more potential habitats along the east side of the Bridger’s, let us know if you spot any activity while in the Bridger Mountain range!