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Environmentally enriching American mink ( Neovison vison) increases lymphoid organ weight and skeletal symmetry, and reveals differences between two sub-types of stereotypic behaviour

By M. Diez-Leon, S. Bursian, D. Galicia, A. Napolitano, R. Palme, G. Mason

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Abstract

Enrichment studies for wild carnivores (e.g., in zoos) are often short-term, use enrichments of unknown motivational significance, and focus on glucocorticoids and stereotypic behaviour (SB), ignoring other stress-relevant variables. Our study assessed the broad behavioural and physiological effects of enriching American mink-a model carnivore-with preferred stimuli long-term, and investigated the welfare implications of individual differences in SB. We raised 64 male-female pairs with or without enrichment. At 7 months, pairs were split and mink individually housed (adults being solitary), first by being temporarily moved to identical non-enriched cages (permitting observation blind to rearing condition). Two weeks later, one mink per original pair (half female, half male) was returned to his/her rearing cage for re-observation, sample collection for faecal cortisol metabolite (FCM) analysis, and additional research for 1.5 years before being humanely killed. Stress-sensitive variables were then measured post-mortem. Enriched-raised mink in their rearing conditions excreted less FCM ( F1,29=8.33, p=0.003), and performed less SB than non-enriched mink. Two SB sub-types occurred: (1) 'loco' stereotypies: locomotor, whole body and head stereotypies (e.g., pacing, nodding), previously shown to correlate with recurrent perseveration; and (2) repetitive scrabbling with the forepaws. Enriched housing reduced both (at 7 months: loco stereotypies: F1,60=25.3, p

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 177
Pages 59-69
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2015.12.002
Language English
Author Address Department of Animal Biosciences, University of Guelph, Guelph, ON N1G 2W1, Canada.gmason@uoguelph.ca
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Tags
  1. Animal anatomy
  2. Animal behavior
  3. Animal housing
  4. Animal physiology
  5. Animals
  6. Animal welfare
  7. Asymmetry
  8. Cages
  9. Carnivores
  10. Cells
  11. Corticosteroids
  12. Effect
  13. Enrichment
  14. Feces
  15. Gardens
  16. Glucocorticoids
  17. Head
  18. Hydrocortisone
  19. Immunity
  20. Mammals
  21. Metabolites
  22. mink
  23. Neovison
  24. organs
  25. peer-reviewed
  26. physiology
  27. relapses
  28. Research
  29. sampling
  30. skeleton
  31. Stress
  32. utilization
  33. vertebrates
  34. weasels
  35. Weight
Badges
  1. peer-reviewed