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Positive Reinforcement Training for Blood Collection in Grizzly Bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) Results in Undetectable Elevations in Serum Cortisol Levels: A Preliminary Investigation

By Nicole M. Joyce-Zuniga, Ruth C. Newberry, Charles T. Robbins, Jasmine V. Ware, Heiko T. Jansen, O. Lynne Nelson

Category Journal Articles
Abstract

Training nonhuman animals in captivity for participation in routine husbandry procedures is believed to produce a lower stress environment compared with undergoing a general anesthetic event for the same procedure. This hypothesis rests largely on anecdotal evidence that the captive subjects appear more relaxed with the trained event. Blood markers of physiological stress responses were evaluated in 4 captive grizzly bears (Ursus arctos horribilis) who were clicker-trained for blood collection versus 4 bears who were chemically immobilized for blood collection. Serum cortisol and immunoglobulin A (IgA) and plasma β-endorphin were measured as indicators of responses to stress. Plasma β-endorphin was not different between the groups. Serum IgA was undetectable in all bears. Serum cortisol was undetectable in all trained bears, whereas chemically immobilized bears had marked cortisol elevations (p < .05). The highest cortisol elevations were found in 2 bears with extensive recent immobilization experience. These findings support the use of positive reinforcement training for routine health procedures to minimize anxiety.

Publication Title Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science
Volume 19
Issue 2
Pages 210-215
ISBN/ISSN 1088-8705
DOI 10.1080/10888705.2015.1126523
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Tags
  1. Animal welfare
  2. Anxiety
  3. Blood
  4. Human-animal interactions
  5. Stress