Live trapping animals for research

The following thought provoking and  interesting article is from The Wolf Conservation Face Book page. This has been touched on before on this website but any further comments on this?

A gray wolf is dead in Oregon, and people may be to blame.
The animal had been trapped by federal biologists in October and fitted with a radio-tracking collar that reported on its movements. Just over a month later, the wolf was dead. Given that a baited leg-hold trap was used to catch the wolf, it’s possible that the capture contributed to the wolf’s demise, officials said.
The stress of capture itself — from being immobilized in a trap, or chased over long distances — can kill.
This kind of death is caused by a condition called capture myopathy, which occurs when overworked skeletal muscles — the ones that power the fight-or-flight response — start to break down and release a hormone called myoglobin. In great amounts, myoglobin can enter the bloodstream and concentrate in the kidneys, where it causes tissue damage and sometimes kidney failure.
“An individual animal is never better off because we trapped it or caught it or tagged it,” said Steven Cooke, a biologist at Carleton University in Canada. “But the knowledge gained from that individual can hopefully be useful for informing how to better manage, conserve, protect and restore populations and species.”
Does the potential knowledge gained from collaring an animal outweigh the negative impact the capture process has on the animal? What say you?


  • Vladimir Dinets

    Myopathy is only one of potential dangers. A radiocollaring study of Siberian tigers once caused deaths of a large number of animals (>10% of the entire population according to some claims, although the exact number will never be known). The causes of death were leg and/or teeth injuries. Small mammals often freeze or overheat in traps, etc. There are ways to minimize the mortality but accidents still happen.

  • Laurent Morin

    I don’t have any science degree, so my info might be questionable, but I really like the perpective brought by the books written by Alan Rabinowitz, notably “Jaguar”.
    His research on Jaguars was very important to help save the species and actually had an important impact on their conservation, but he was crushed by guilt each time he found a dead collared Jaguar. I should specify that this book was written back when he used snares and telemetry, in the 80s.

  • Jurek

    To push protection of rare species, opponents generally demand hard facts. These facts must be gathered. There is clear choice between smaller risk of injuring an animal during research, and larger risk that species will be unprotected and more or all individuals will die.
    I sympathize with field bioilogists, because they are in the spotlight. Every animal which scratched itself in a biologists live-trap is talked about, but nobody thinks twice about hundreds killed by poachers. Because the latter is somehow normal and not interesting enough. ANd of course, gives no occassion to put photos on social media.
    My proposal is not add fuel to the social media sh*tstorms which are ephemeral, but draw attention first to the biggest dangers facing animals.

    • Mattia from Italy

      Wrong. Most “scientific” projects are done not for “gathering hard facts”, but for only for money reasons.

      I can’t count how many identical researches were done on apex predators like Wolves, Bears, Lions, Tigers, Leopards etc. Most of them in already protected areas. There are just a handful of researches targeting Colugos, Pangolins or similar less-known species, because they have no public support, don’t give sponsorships and nobody gains celebrity. Lastly: I don’t remember a single research that ended with more protection for a species or a territory.

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