We conducted exploratory analyses to examine the relative roles played by natural and anthropogenic influences on persistence of a montane mammal. We revisited historical locations of pikas (Ochotona princeps) within the hydrographic Great Basin during summers of 1994–1999. Seven of 25 populations (28%) reported earlier in the 20th century appeared to have experienced recent extirpations. We assessed causative agents of faunal change using several alternative, but not mutually exclusive, hypotheses. Higher probability of persistence was correlated with greater area of talus habitat at local and mountain-range scales, higher elevation, more easterly longitude, more southern latitude, lack of livestock grazing, greater distance to primary roads, and wilderness management. However, only area of habitat in the mountain range, maximum elevation of talus habitat, and distance to primary roads appeared in the most parsimonious model of persistence when we used Akaike's information criterion model-selection technique. These results suggest that relaxation of montane faunas may occur more rapidly than previously expected; that biogeographic models of species occurrence can be refined by including more proximate factors (e.g., grazing status, proximity to roads); and that habitat-based approaches to modelling vertebrate trends should be accompanied by field data because population loss can occur with no apparent change in habitat.
hydrographic Great Basin
montane alpine habitat