Immobilization of free-ranging male pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) with carfentanil citrate and naltrexone hydrochloride

Marine Mammal Science
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The major challenges in immobilization of free-ranging walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) are to produce a deep level of anesthesia very quickly (to avoid darted animals from entering the water and drowning), and to find a drug or drug combination that requires only a small volume to be delivered by dart, is safe, reversible, and that provides an adequate period of immobilization to permit attachment of instruments, phlebotomy, and measuring. Tiletamine-zolazepam is recommended for immobilization of pinnipeds, with inhalant anesthesia recommended for more extensive procedures requiring better analgesia (Gales 1989). Drugs that have been used on free-ranging walruses include ketamine (Hagenbeck et al. 1975), phencyclidine combined with acepromazine (DeMaster et al. 1981), etorphine (Born and Knutsen 1990, Hills 1992, Griffiths et al. 1993), tiletamine-zolazepam (Stirling and Sjare 1988, Griffiths et al. 1993), medetomidine and ketamine (Lydersen et al. 1992), and carfentanil (Hills 1992, Lanthier et al. 1999). Carfentanil but not etorphine is presently licensed and available in the United States.

Forty-eight adult male walruses were immobilized with carfentanil citrate in the summers of 1995-1997 at Maggy Beach (58°57’N, 161°76’W), a land haul-out located at Cape Peirce within the Togiak National Wildlife Refuge in southwest Alaska. The number of animals present during immobilizations ranged from three to several thousand. Criteria for choosing individual walruses included good body condition, the presence of two tusks of sufficient diameter for the attachment of radio transmitters, and presence of the animal at the edge of the herd. In addition, we chose animals that were resting quietly and which had not recently hauled out (as judged by skin color). Walruses were darted from ranges of approximately 10-15 m using a Cap-Chur rifle (Palmer Chemical and Equipment Co., Douglasville, Georgia, GA 30133). Carfentanil citrate (Wildlife Pharmaceuticals, Fort Collins, CO 80524) was administered by dart with a 10-cm needle to the lumbar region. Most animals received a dose of 2.7 or 3.0 mg of carfentanil. One animal received a second dose after the first syringe apparently burst on impact. Induction times were measured as being the time at which the animal collapsed, failed to respond to external stimuli, or as the time when the darter stood up and moved towards the animal.

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Immobilization of free-ranging male pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) with carfentanil citrate and naltrexone hydrochloride
Series title Marine Mammal Science
DOI 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2003.tb01135.x
Volume 19
Issue 4
Year Published 2003
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Description 5 p.
First page 846
Last page 850
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