Aimee Heffernan - July 2018

June was our first month in the field collecting data and man, did we have some hiccups. Our team was caught in snow storms, lightning storms, hail, and torrential downpours. While the four of us have taken physical beatings from bush-wacking, crossing creeks that shouldn’t be crossed, and hiking 10+ miles a day, our vehicles have been equally punished. At this point we have already gotten towed out of a 4-wheel drive road, had two flat tires, many beautiful new scratches to the paint job, and one check engine light that has been haunting us since May. And to think we still have two more months.

The weather and access issues we faced in June made us incredibly behind schedule and we were unable to finish our full workload after mechanical problems shut us down in the Tobacco Root Mountains. Many of our high elevation patches were still covered in snow meaning they will either be abandoned or re-surveyed at another time. In July we will go back to each mountain range again but to different locations.

Despite all of the setbacks we faced, I did get to see a lot of pikas and some nice views. Some days we seemed almost every patch we surveyed was occupied and others we were digging around in the rocks searching for pellets. Seeing a pika at lower elevations is always exciting because it’s a small victory for them. Many times I hear them before I see them, because the blend in so well I’m always hoping they don’t stop calling or else I won’t be able to zero in on their location. I’ve tried to take photos of them when I get close enough but they’re so small and blend into the rock so well that the iPhone just can’t do them justice.

Some trends have already become clear. We typically find pikas living at lower elevations on the western side of our mountain ranges whereas we won’t find them until we reach a little bit higher elevations on the eastern half. This could be because the west side receives more precipitation than the east side. On another note, I have injured my knee and I am anxious to see how July plays out, hopefully it heals fast.

Image 1. Kenny digging up talus in search of pellets for evidence

Image 2. Stuck in a snow storm

Image 3. View of the Lemhi Mountains from a patch

Image 4. Peter writing down data in the Lemhi Mountains


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