Beartooth are OpenResuming the hunt for pikas
by Dan Hartman
June 1, 2013The Beartooths opened for a couple days last week before snowing shut again this weekend. I took the occasion to run up one morning and look around. Along the way I found a blue grouse strutting beside the road. In another area, I walked in to check on a ruffed grouse drumming log. There were droppings and a feather so the grouse had been there, but was no where to be seen now. I searched deeper in the trees and found him feeding on new grass shoots.
On my way again, I passed by Beartooth Lake. Two thirds of it was still frozen. Past Top of the World Store then up the switchbacks to the West Summit I drove. At 11,000 feet I parked and began glassing for wildlife.
An eagle soared far down a canyon, a golden mantled ground squirrel scrambled across the snow to disappear in a snow tunnel. Suddenly pika began calling just below me. A dark beast ran out into the open and started across the snowfield. My heart raced! Wolverine! I took a couple shots then enlarged the image on my camera screen. Marmont. Now my heart sank.
I felt I had lost something, funny thing was, I never had it in the first place.
What caused the pika to call? I looked around but found nothing. The area was mostly covered with snow with rocks sticking out here and there. I caught movement. A pika emerged from under an exposed rock. As I watched, it reached high to nibble at a patch of lichen. I got my tripod and began photographing the little fella. I wondered if his haystack was depleted and eating lichen was his only option.
This is where I started working on my book on pika last fall, and where I'll be working all summer. It felt good to be back at it again. It's going to be a fun summer!
Golden Mantled Ground Squirrel
Pika Feeding On Lichen