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Feds weigh animal protection due to climate

February 04, 2010 at 02:20 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) - The government is expected to decide whether a tiny, mountain-dwelling mammal should become the first animal in the continental U.S. to get federal protections primarily because of climate change.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision about the American pika is expected Friday.

If the furry, big-eared relative of the rabbit becomes protected under the Endangered Species Act, some legal experts predict it could have ramifications for future climate policies.

The pika lives mostly in high, rocky mountain slopes in 10 Western states.

The animals are well-suited for alpine conditions, but as temperatures warm they’re forced to move up-slope. In some places, scientists say the pika has run out of room to run and populations have disappeared.

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