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Baltic, M., Jenni-Eiermann, S., Arlettaz, R., & Palme, R. (2005). A noninvasive technique to evaluate human-generated stress in the black grouse. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 1046, 81–95.
Abstract: The continuous development of tourism and related leisure activities is exerting an increasingly intense pressure on wildlife. In this study, a novel noninvasive method for measuring stress in the black grouse, an endangered, emblematic species of European ecosystems that is currently declining in several parts of its European range, is tested and physiologically validated. A radiometabolism study and an ACTH challenge test were performed on four captive black grouse (two of each sex) in order to get basic information about the metabolism and excretion of corticosterone and to find an appropriate enzyme-immunoassay (EIA) to measure its metabolites in the feces. Peak radioactivity in the droppings was detected within 1 to 2 hours. Injected (3)H-corticosterone was excreted as polar metabolites and by itself was almost absent. A cortisone-EIA was chosen from among seven tested EIAs for different groups of glucocorticoid metabolites, because it cross-reacted with some of the formed metabolites and best reflected the increase of excreted corticosterone metabolites, after the ACTH challenge test. Concentrations of the metabolites from fecal samples collected from snow burrows of free-ranging black grouse were within the same range as in captive birds. The noninvasive method described may be appropriate for evaluating the stress faced by free-living black grouse populations in the wild, particularly in mountain ecosystems where human disturbance, especially by winter sports, is of increasing conservation concern.