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Physiological Stress Reactions in Red Deer Induced by Hunting Activities

University of Coimbra, Centre for Functional Ecology (CFE), Department of Life Sciences, Calçada Martim de Freitas, 3000-456 Coimbra, Portugal
Department of Biomedical Sciences, Unit of Physiology, Pathophysiology and Experimental Endocrinology, University of Veterinary Medicine, Veterinärplatz 1, 2210 Vienna, Austria
Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive NW, Calgary, AB T2N 1N4, Canada
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Animals 2020, 10(6), 1003;
Received: 19 May 2020 / Revised: 5 June 2020 / Accepted: 5 June 2020 / Published: 8 June 2020
Game hunting is an activity largely practiced all over the world. Understanding its consequences on wildlife is crucial for the proper management and development of hunting directives. In this study, we examined stress levels in hunted wild red deer by assessing cortisol levels and its metabolites in multi-temporal biological samples. Overall, we found evidence for an influence on stress levels of red deer caused by repeated exposure to hunting events, which could have important implications on the sustainability and conservation of wild populations. Furthermore, our results highlight the use of hair samples as a useful long-term stress indicator.
Hunting activity is usually seen as a factor capable of causing an intense stress response in wildlife that may lead to short but also long-term stress. In the Lousã Mountain, Portugal, the population of red deer (Cervus elaphus) is the target of intensive seasonal hunting. We collected and measured cortisol (and its metabolites) in three tissues types (blood, feces and hair) from red deer hunted during two hunting seasons to evaluate the stress levels at different time windows. We also assessed the immunological and physical condition of the animals. We predicted that the hunting activity would act as a stressor inducing increased short and long-term stress levels in the population. Results showed an increase in hair cortisol levels during the months of harvesting. Surprisingly, the tendency for plasma cortisol levels was to decrease during the hunting season, which could be interpreted as habituation to hunting activity, or due to the hunting duration. Contrary to our predictions, fecal cortisol metabolites did not show any clear patterns across the months. Overall, our results suggest an influence of hunting activities on the physiological stress in red deer. In addition, hair seems to be useful to measure physiological stress, although more studies are required to fully understand its suitability as an indicator of long-term stress. Methodologically, our approach highlights the importance of simultaneously using different methods to assess short and long-term effects in studies on physiological stress reactions. View Full-Text
Keywords: Cervus elaphus; plasma; feces; hair; glucocorticoids; hunting; stress Cervus elaphus; plasma; feces; hair; glucocorticoids; hunting; stress
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MDPI and ACS Style

Vilela, S.; Alves da Silva, A.; Palme, R.; Ruckstuhl, K.E.; Sousa, J.P.; Alves, J. Physiological Stress Reactions in Red Deer Induced by Hunting Activities. Animals 2020, 10, 1003.

AMA Style

Vilela S, Alves da Silva A, Palme R, Ruckstuhl KE, Sousa JP, Alves J. Physiological Stress Reactions in Red Deer Induced by Hunting Activities. Animals. 2020; 10(6):1003.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Vilela, Sofia, António Alves da Silva, Rupert Palme, Kathreen E. Ruckstuhl, José Paulo Sousa, and Joana Alves. 2020. "Physiological Stress Reactions in Red Deer Induced by Hunting Activities" Animals 10, no. 6: 1003.

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