Impact of live trapping on the stress response of the meadow vole (Microtus pennsylvanicus)


Rudy Boonstra, Department of Life Sciences, Centre for the Neurobiology of Stress, University of Toronto at Scarborough, 1265 Military Trail, Scarborough, ONT, Canada M1C 1A4. Tel: 1-416-287-7442; Fax: 1-416-287-7642


In physiological research on natural populations, it is essential to understand the impact of capture-induced stress because of its numerous effects on many physiological processes. Our objective was to determine the extent to which the stress levels of meadow voles Microtus pennsylvanicus were affected by short-term responses to live trapping and how these were influenced by the amount of time spent in live traps. Baseline levels were obtained from a snap-trapped sample and stress levels were determined from voles that had spent variable amounts of time in live traps (up to 16.5 h). Stress levels were inferred from corticosterone and glucose concentrations and haematocrit levels. In the live-trapped sample, corticosterone concentrations reflect only the stress of trap confinement whereas glucose concentrations and haematocrit reflect both the effects of trap confinement and handling. Live trapping caused corticosterone concentrations to increase by 108% (from 390.3 to 810.6 ng mL−1), glucose concentrations to increase by 58% (from 55.4 to 87.4 mg dL−1) and haematocrit levels to increase by 10% (from 49 to 54%) from baseline levels. The length of time a vole spent in a live trap did not affect corticosterone and glucose concentrations; however, haematocrit levels increased slightly over time (0.21% h−1). We conclude that live trapping induced a stress response in voles, but that longer times in traps did not increase the stress levels.