Saturday, January 30, 2010

Crayfish Healthy, Pikas in Peril

Pika eating grass, photographer unknown, 1964

Ever since the white men arrived on the scene, the giant crayfish beast has not been seen around Crater Lake. Could this be because the white men don't believe in the monster?

However, plenty of ordinary crayfish inhabit the lake. And yet, no crayfish has ever been found in any stream within the park boundaries. How can that be? One might suspect that white man introduced the crayfish. Then again, we must recall that the Klamath people told stories about crayfish (normal-sized as well as giant) that probably predate the white man by centuries. They called the crayfish “the children of Llao.” Llao was the spirit who inhabited the lake.

Whether native or introduced, the crayfish seem to be doing well these days. Not all the wildlife is so lucky. The pika, a mountain-dwelling cousin of rabbits, is threatened by global warming. These cute little fellows can't tolerate heat—78 degrees Fahrenheit can kill them. In recent years, pikas have been ascending higher into the mountains, trying to escape the rising heat. It's like rising floodwaters—or rising flames. I produced this drawing as a tribute to our imperiled furry friend:

I saw pikas from time to time at Crater Lake. More commonly, I heard their loud and high “eenk” call. Big noise for a small critter.

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