Drug combinations are commonly used to immobilize white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) for capture or handling. Although efficacy of various compatible and complementary drugs has been tested in clinical trials with deer, extensive negative side effects, impractical drug volume, and slow recovery from immobilization sometimes make these combinations less than ideal for routine field use. We hypothesized that a combination of butorphanol, azaperone, and medetomidine (BAM) would provide safe and effective immobilization of captive white-tailed deer while minimizing these complicating factors. We tested two dosages of this drug combination (BAM-1 and BAM-2) and two dosages of a naltrexone, tolazoline, and atipamezole antagonist combination (NTA-1 and NTA-2) with captive white-tailed deer. We characterized efficacy of drug for immobilization, quality of drug induction, and recovery after drug reversal, and we compared our findings with those of previous drug trials. Complete immobilization and excellent induction quality was achieved with a low volume dosage of BAM-2. Time to drug induction and deer recumbency for BAM-2 compared favorably with results from previous trials involving xylaxine/ketamine and medetomidine/ketamine but without risk of hyperthermia. We found no differences in time to deer recovery for NTA-1 and NTA-2, with deer treated with either combination standing by 30 min postinjection. Regardless of immobilizing drugs used, we suggest practitioners monitor for signs of circulatory deficiency in deer and provide supplemental oxygen when needed.
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