Retirement: World's longest coffee break. travel blog

An active Pika hay pile

Dale uses the GPS to search

Radioing the other groups

A pika with his stash

Smoke in the Bow Valley

Julie holds up a hair snare

The hair snare in place

We're volunteering again this year on a Pika research project in Banff National Park. Pikas are little critters that look like small rabbits with round ears and they live in rock piles in the mountains. During the summer they collect vegetation that they stash in piles under the rocks (researchers call them "hay piles"). Then when the snow covers the rocks, they spend the winter under the snow living off of their hay piles. Pikas are very sensitive to climate change and the researchers want to see if their numbers are declining. So a couple of year ago they went out in the park to areas where they knew Pikas liked to hang out and used GPS's to record the location of the hay piles. Each year, the research team and volunteers go back to those locations and check to see if the hay piles are still active. Kind of like a treasure hunt. They also set up some hair snares so that they can check the DNA to see which Pikas are accessing the hay piles. The DNA analysis may be high tech but the hair snares made of packing tape definitely are not! We've spent the last 2 days hiking around in Wolverine Valley near Lake Louise Ski Resort and C-level Cirque searching for hay piles. A fun and educational way to spend some time. And the pika's sure are cute! Eeeeeeeek (the call of the pika).

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