Potential stressors of wildlife living in captivity, such as artificial living conditions and frequent human contact, may lead to a higher occurrence of disease and reduced reproductive function. One successful method used by wildlife managers to improve general well-being is the provision of environmental enrichment, which is the practice of providing animals under managed care with environmental stimuli. The black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) is a highly-endangered carnivore species that was rescued from extinction by removal of the last remaining individuals from the wild to begin an ex situ breeding program. Our goal was to examine the effect of environmental enrichment on adrenocortical activity in ferrets by monitoring fecal glucocorticoid metabolites (FGM). Results demonstrated that enrichment lowered FGM in juvenile male ferrets, while increasing it in adult females; enrichment had no effect on FGM in juvenile females and adult males. These results correspond with our findings that juvenile males interacted more with the enrichment items than did adult females. However, we did not detect an impact of FGM on the incidence of disease or on the ability of ferrets to become reproductive during the following breeding season. We conclude that an environmental enrichment program could benefit captive juvenile male ferrets by reducing adrenocortical activity.
|Publication Subtype||Journal Article|
|Title||Environmental enrichment affects adrenocortical stress responses in the endangered black-footed ferret|
|Series title||General and Comparative Endocrinology|
|Google Analytic Metrics||Metrics page|