Assessing acute effects of trapping, handling, and tagging on the behavior of wildlife using GPS telemetry: a case study of the common brushtail possum

J Appl Anim Welf Sci. 2012;15(3):189-207. doi: 10.1080/10888705.2012.683755.


Trapping, handling, and deployment of tracking devices (tagging) are essential aspects of many research and conservation studies of wildlife. However, often these activities place nonhuman animals under considerable physical or psychological distress, which disrupts normal patterns of behavior and may ultimately result in deleterious effects on animal welfare and the validity of research results. Thus, knowledge of how trapping, handling, and tagging alter the behavior of research animals is essential if measures to ameliorate stress-related effects are to be developed and implemented. This article describes how time-stamped location data obtained by global-positioning-system telemetry can be used to retrospectively characterize acute behavioral responses to trapping, handling, and tagging in free-ranging animals used for research. Methods are demonstrated in a case study of the common brushtail possum, a semiarboreal phalangerid marsupial native to Australia. The study discusses possible physiological causes of observed effects and offers general suggestions regarding simple means to reduce trapping-handling-and-tagging-related stress in field studies of vertebrates.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / psychology
  • Behavior, Animal
  • Female
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Handling, Psychological
  • Male
  • New Zealand
  • Stress, Psychological / etiology
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Telemetry
  • Trichosurus / psychology*