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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2017

Quantifying capture stress in free ranging European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus)

Huber, Nikolaus; Vetter, Sebastian G.; Evans, Alina L.; Kjellander, Petter; Kuker, Susanne; Bergvall, Ulrika A.; Arnemo, Jon M.


Background: To understand and reduce the concomitant effects of trapping and handling procedures in wildlife species, it is essential to measure their physiological impact. Here, we examined individual variation in stress levels in non-anesthetized European roe deer (Capreolus capreolus), which were captured in box traps and physically restrained for tagging, biometrics and bio-sampling. In winter 2013, we collected venous blood samples from 28 individuals during 28 capture events and evaluated standard measurements for stress (heart rate, body temperature, neutrophil to lymphocyte ratio, lactate and total cortisol). Additionally, we assessed stress using the immunological tool, Leukocyte Coping Capacity (LCC), a real-time proxy for stress measuring oxygen radical production by leukocytes. Finally, the behavioral response to handling was recorded using a scoring system.Results: LCC and therefore stress levels were negatively influenced by the time animals spent in the box trap with human presence at the capture site prior to handling. In contrast, none of the classical stress measures, including total cortisol, nor the behavioral assessment, were correlated with the stressor tested (time of human presence prior to handling) and thus did not provide a clear depiction regarding the extent of the animals short-term stress response.Conclusions: Overall our study verifies the LCC as a strong method to quantify short-term stress reactions in wildlife. Moreover, our results clearly show that human presence at the trapping site prior to handling should be kept to an absolute minimum in order to reduce stress levels.


Wildlife; Stress; Leukocyte coping capacity; Coping style; Cortisol

Published in

BMC Veterinary Research
2017, Volume: 13, article number: 127