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Behavior of feral horses in response to culling and GnRH immunocontraception

By J. I. Ransom, J. G. Powers, H. M. Garbe, M. W. Oehler, T. M. Nett, D. L. Baker

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Wildlife management actions can alter fundamental behaviors of individuals and groups, which may directly impact their life history parameters in unforeseen ways. This is especially true for highly social animals because changes in one individual's behavior can cascade throughout its social network. When resources to support populations of social animals are limited and populations become locally overabundant, managers are faced with the daunting challenge of decreasing population size without disrupting core behavioral processes. Increasingly, managers are turning to fertility control technologies to supplement culling in efforts to suppress population growth, but little is quantitatively known about how either of these management tools affects behavior. Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) is a small neuropeptide that performs an obligatory role in mammalian reproduction and has been formulated into the immunocontraceptive GonaCon-B TM. We investigated the influences of this vaccine on behavior of feral horses ( Equus caballus) at Theodore Roosevelt National Park, North Dakota, USA, for a year preceding and a year following nonlethal culling and GnRH-vaccine treatment. We observed horses during the breeding season and found only minimal differences in time budget behaviors of free-ranging female feral horses treated with GnRH and those treated with saline. The differences observed were consistent with the metabolic demands of pregnancy and lactation. We observed similar social behaviors between treatment groups, reflecting limited reproductive behavior among control females due to high rates of pregnancy and suppressed reproductive behavior among treated females due to GnRH-inhibited ovarian activity. In the treatment year, band stallion age was the only supported factor influencing herding behavior ( P

Date 2014
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 157
Pages 81-92
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.05.002
Author Address U.S. Geological Survey, Fort Collins Science Center, 2150 Centre Avenue, Building C, Fort Collins, CO 80526,
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Agonistic behavior
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal ecology
  4. Animal roles
  5. Animals
  6. APEC countries
  7. Biological resources
  8. Body condition
  9. Breeding
  10. Contraception
  11. Countries
  12. Culling
  13. Demography
  14. Developed countries
  15. Feeds
  16. Feral animals
  17. Fertility.
  18. Fodder
  19. Foraging
  20. GnRH
  21. Grazing
  22. History
  23. Horses
  24. Lactation
  25. Land resources
  26. Life
  27. Mammals
  28. national parks
  29. North America
  30. North Dakota
  31. OECD countries
  32. ovaries
  33. Physiology and biochemistry
  34. population density
  35. population growth
  36. pregnancy
  37. Reproduction
  38. Resistance and Immunity
  39. social anthropology
  40. Social behavior
  41. Social psychology and social anthropology
  42. social structure
  43. Synergy
  44. ungulates
  45. United States of America
  46. vaccination
  47. vertebrates
  48. Wild animals
  49. wildlife
  50. wildlife management