Conservation medicine is a discipline in which researchers and conservationists study and respond to the dynamic interplay between animals, humans, and the environment. From a wildlife perspective, animal species are encountering stressors from numerous sources. With the rapidly increasing human population, a corresponding increased demand for food, fuel, and shelter; habitat destruction; and increased competition for natural resources, the health and well-being of wild animal populations is increasingly at risk of disease and endangerment. Scientific data are needed to measure the impact that human encroachment is having on wildlife. Nonbiased biometric data provide a means to measure the amount of stress being imposed on animals from humans, the environment, and other animals. The stress response in animals functions via glucocorticoid metabolism and is regulated by the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. Fecal glucocorticoids, in particular, may be an extremely useful biometric test, since sample collection is noninvasive to subjects and, therefore, does not introduce other variables that may alter assay results. For this reason, many researchers and conservationists have begun to use fecal glucocorticoids as a means to measure stress in various animal species. This review article summarizes the literature on many studies in which fecal glucocorticoids and their metabolites have been used to assess stress levels in various mammalian species. Variations between studies are the main focus of this review. Collection methods, storage conditions, shipping procedures, and laboratory techniques utilized by different researchers are discussed.
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine
Vol. 37 • No. 3
Vol. 37 • No. 3