Date of this Version
Stevenson, E.T., E.M. Gese, L.A. Neuman-Lee, and S.S. French. 2020. Instability of glucocorticoid metabolites in coyote scats: implications for field sampling. Human-Wildlife Interactions 14(2):184-191.
Studying physiologic stress responses can assist in understanding the welfare of animals. One method of measuring the physiologic stress response is evaluating concentrations of glucocorticoid metabolites in feces. Previously, using an adrenocorticotropic hormone challenge, we found fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels were a reliable indicator of physiologic stress response in coyotes (Canis latrans). We determine whether glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations remain stable when collecting feces over a 2-week period, a timeframe commonly used in scat surveys for wild canids. We collected feces from 6 captive coyotes maintained at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Wildlife Services, National Wildlife Research Center, Predator Research Facility near Millville, Utah, USA, and exposed them to the environment for 13 days during summer (August 26 to September 8, 2011) and winter (January 11–24, 2012). Every 2 days, we collected a sub-sample from each individual scat and then quantified the concentration of fecal glucocorticoid metabolites. We found changes in fecal glucocorticoid metabolite concentrations over the 13-day period, with values increasing 45–79% from day 1 to day 3 of sampling. There was also high variation in fecal glucocorticoid metabolites among individuals over time. We provide evidence that fecal samples collected in the field even 3 days after defecation will not provide reliable measures of fecal glucocorticoid metabolites and thus recommend using only fresh fecal samples. We also recommend that, due to high individual variability in fecal glucocorticoid metabolites, a large number of individuals be sampled when a population-wide assessment is desired.
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