Blood samples and physiological data were collected from 634 bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis) captured by four different methods between 1980 and 1986 in the western United States. These parameters were evaluated for selected physiological, biochemical and hematological values. Postcapture biological parameters were compared among bighorn sheep according to four different outcomes; normal, stressed or compromised, capture myopathy (CM) mortality, and accidental mortality. Significant differences (P < 0.05) were noted between outcome groups relative to certain parameters: temperature, respiration, creatinine phosphokinase (CPK), lactic dehydrogenase (LDH), serum glutamic oxaloacetic transaminase (SGOT), blood urea nitrogen (BUN), glucose, white blood cell count (WBC) and plasma pH. Such differences between groups may help in evaluating the clinical status of bighorn sheep at capture, enabling one to predict those animals that might develop CM at a later date, indicate candidates for preventive medical treatment prior to release, and/or which should be followed closely to determine long-term survival. Evaluation of follow-up data (n = 77) related to outcome status and long-term survival of bighorn sheep indicated that <4% (3 of 77) were dead within 1 mo of capture (one of these had been classified as normal and two as stressed or compromised at capture); <3% (3 of 77) were dead >1 mo, and <6 mo after capture two were classified in the stressed outcome and one as diseased. Eighty-eight percent (68 of 77) were alive from 1 mo to 5 yr after capture (53 were classified as normal, 12 as stressed or compromised and 3 as diseased), and 2% (1 of 77) had chronic CM but was still alive (this animal had been classified as normal). Of 77 sheep in the follow-up group, <3% (2 of 77) were not observed following capture (one was classified as normal and one as stressed and diseased). Of the fatalities, <3% (2 of 40) had been captured by the net-gun and <4% (1 of 27) by drive-net. Those two unobserved in the follow-up group also had been caught with the net-gun, 5% (2 of 40). The single surviving CM case had been captured by the net-gun. Although the net-gun appears to be one of the safest methods of capturing individual bighorn sheep, based on evaluation of capture data and biological parameters, it may not be associated with the best long-term survival in some bighorn sheep. This further emphasizes the need for close monitoring of animals at capture and following their release.
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Vol. 23 • No. 4