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25 April 2023 EVALUATING THE EFFICACY OF NONINVASIVE FECAL SAMPLING FOR PREGNANCY DETECTION IN ELK (CERVUS CANADENSIS)
Eryn M. Watson, Katherine A. Kurth, Dailee L. Metts, Sarah E. Moorey, Bradley F. Miller, Richard W. Gerhold, Lisa I. Muller
Author Affiliations +
Abstract

Elk (Cervus canadensis) were reintroduced to Tennessee, USA in the early 2000s, with limited reproductive monitoring since initial release. We assessed the efficacy of noninvasive sampling for determining pregnancy using invasive (capture) and noninvasive (fecal collection in the field) techniques at the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area (NCWMA), Tennessee. We captured 20 female elk 2019–2020, used pregnancy-specific protein B (PSPB) in blood to determine pregnancy and compared results to fecal progesterone metabolite (FPM) concentrations using two commercially available enzyme immunoassay (EIA) kits. Based on PSPB concentrations, 8/11 and 3/4 of captured adult elk (≥2.5 yr of age) were pregnant in 2019 and 2020, respectively; no 1.5-yr-old elk were pregnant (n=5). Using the progesterone EIA kit, FPM concentrations were =192.84±38.63 ng/g (95% CI, 96.48–289.20) for nonpregnant and =536.17±74.98 ng/g (95% CI, 375.97–696.36) for pregnant captured females. For the progesterone metabolite kit, FPM concentrations were =188.16±43.39 ng/g (95% confidence interval [CI], 76.63–299.69) for nonpregnant and =693.52±126.52 ng/g (95% CI, 407.31–979.72) for pregnant captured females. From February to May 2019, we collected 357 fecal samples in 65 areas across 489.62 km2 of the NCWMA. Using extracted DNA and analysis of 15 microsatellites, we identified 62 unique individuals from 128 female fecal samples collected on the landscape. We categorized females from landscape-collected feces as nonpregnant (35.5–40.3%; Metabolite-EIA kits), undetermined (1.6–6.5%; Metabolite-EIA kits), or pregnant (62.9–53.2%; Metabolite-EIA kits) based on a 95% CI of captured female FPM concentrations, giving an overall pregnancy rate of 53.2% using the recommended EIA kit. The pregnancy rate in sexually mature females may be higher, as it was not possible to distinguish age classes of landscape-collected fecal samples; therefore, some may have been from younger age classes not expected to be pregnant. Analysis of FPM may be useful at a population level to detect pregnancy.

Eryn M. Watson, Katherine A. Kurth, Dailee L. Metts, Sarah E. Moorey, Bradley F. Miller, Richard W. Gerhold, and Lisa I. Muller "EVALUATING THE EFFICACY OF NONINVASIVE FECAL SAMPLING FOR PREGNANCY DETECTION IN ELK (CERVUS CANADENSIS)," Journal of Wildlife Diseases 59(1), 61-70, (25 April 2023). https://doi.org/10.7589/JWD-D-22-00041
Received: 31 March 2022; Accepted: 8 August 2022; Published: 25 April 2023
KEYWORDS
Cervus canadensis
elk
fecal progesterone metabolites
noninvasive techniques
population
pregnancy
progesterone
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