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Feds: Mountain-dwelling pika may need protection

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MIKE STARK | May 6, 2009 04:10 PM EST | AP


SALT LAKE CITY — A tiny mammal that can't handle warm weather could become the first animal in the lower 48 states to get Endangered Species Act protection primarily because of climate change.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Wednesday that listing the American pika may be warranted because of climate change. Federal officials will now launch an in-depth review of the species and submit findings by Feb. 1, 2010.

The pika _ a furry, big-eared relative of the rabbit _ dwells mostly in high, rocky mountain slopes in 10 Western states. Even brief exposure to temperatures of 78 degrees or warmer can be deadly to the animal.

As the West warms, scientists say some pikas have tried to move upslope to find cooler refuges but have run out of room.