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Lessons learned from using wild-caught and captive-reared lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) in captive experiments

May 4, 2024

Waterfowl are housed in captivity for research studies that are infeasible in the wild. Accommodating the unique requirements of semi-aquatic species in captivity while meeting experimental design criteria for research questions can be challenging and may have unknown effects on animal health. Thus, testing and standardizing best husbandry and care practices for waterfowl is necessary to facilitate proper husbandry and humane care while ensuring reliable and repeatable research results. To inform husbandry practices for captive-reared and wild-caught lesser scaup (Aythya affinis; hereafter, scaup), we assessed body mass and fat composition across two different aspects of husbandry, source population (captive-reared or wild caught), and housing densities (birds/m2). Our results suggest that housing scaup at low densities (≤0.6 m2/bird, P = 0.049) relative to other species can minimize negative health effects. Captive-reared scaup were heavier (P = 0.027) with greater body fat (P < 0.001) and exhibited fewer signs of stress during handling than wild-caught scaup. In our experience, scaup which are captive-reared from eggs collected in the wild were better for long-term captivity studies as they maintained body mass between and recovered lost body mass following trials. Researchers would benefit from carefully evaluating the tradeoffs of using short- and long-term captive methods on their research question before designing projects, husbandry practices, and housing facilities for waterfowl.

Publication Year 2024
Title Lessons learned from using wild-caught and captive-reared lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) in captive experiments
DOI 10.1093/tas/txae076
Authors C.R Beach, C.N Jacques, J.D. Lancaster, D.C. Osborne, A.P. Yetter, Rebecca A. Cole, H.M. Hagy, A.M.V. Fournier
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Translational Animal Science
Index ID 70254415
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization National Wildlife Health Center