Accurately predicting the response of species to climate change is crucial for the preservation of contemporary species diversity. In the current study, we analyze the response of two congeneric small mammal species (Peromyscus maniculatus and Peromyscus truei) to recent climate change in the region of Yosemite National Park (California, USA). The generalist P. maniculatus did not change its distribution in response to climate change while the specialist P. truei substantially changed its geographic and elevational distribution in the region, expanding into Yosemite. Using molecular genetic techniques we found that a cryptic geographic shift in genetic variation may have occurred within the geographically stable P. maniculatus distribution. Using a combination of morphometric and molecular genetic techniques we confirmed that a P. truei subspecies previously identified as a habitat specialist expanded into new habitat types, suggesting that this subspecies is not in fact a habitat specialist. Instead, we propose that the range of this subspecies is instead limited by climatic variables currently varying in response to contemporary climate change. These results underscore the importance of verifying the natural-history-based assumptions used to develop predictive models of species' response to climate change.