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Behavioral Response of Free-Ranging Elk Treated with an Immunocontraceptive Vaccine

Theodore J. Heilmann, Robert A. Garrott, Larry L. Cadwell and Brett L. Tiller
The Journal of Wildlife Management
Vol. 62, No. 1 (Jan., 1998), pp. 243-250
Published by: Wiley on behalf of the Wildlife Society
DOI: 10.2307/3802284
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3802284
Page Count: 8
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Behavioral Response of Free-Ranging Elk Treated with an Immunocontraceptive Vaccine
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Abstract

Most wildlife contraceptive studies to date have evaluated treatment efficacy on individuals, but little research has evaluated the potential behavioral effects associated with inhibiting conception in polyestrous species. During autumn 1993 and 1994, we compared the behavior of 10 free-ranging, radiocollared cow elk (Cervus elaphus) vaccinated with porcine zona pellucida (PZP) immunocontraceptive vaccine with 10 unvaccinated cow elk. We tested the hypothesis that breeding behavior would be prolonged in PZP-treated cows due to repeated estrus cycling. Sexual interaction rates of treatment and control cows were similar during the normal breeding season (P = 0.96) but differed significantly during the postbreeding season (P < 0.001), when almost no sexual interactions were observed in control cows. Postbreeding season interaction rates in treated cows remained at the level observed during the breeding season. We did not detect any significant changes in activity patterns or social structure of the elk during the postbreeding season as a consequence of the apparent PZP-induced cycling (P > 0.50). It is uncertain whether the results of this study apply to possible effects of PZP treatment for management-level applications where a large proportion of the females would be treated. We recommend population-level experiments to further our understanding of the effects of contraceptive technologies on the behavior and dynamics of free-ranging ungulate herds.

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