Evaluation of capture techniques on lesser prairiechicken trap injury and survival

Blake A. Grisham, Clint W. Boal, Natasia R. Mitchell, Trevor S. Gicklhorn, Philip K. Borsdorf, David A. Haukos, Charles E. Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Ethical treatment of research animals is required under the Animal Welfare Act. This includes trapping methodologies that reduce unnecessary pain and duress. Traps used in research should optimize animal welfare conditions within the context of the proposed research study. Several trapping techniques are used in the study of lesser prairie-chickens, despite lack of knowledge of trap injury caused by the various methods. From 2006 to 2012, we captured 217, 40, and 144 lesser prairie-chickens Tympanuchus pallidicinctus using walk-in funnel traps, rocket nets, and drop nets, respectively, in New Mexico and Texas, to assess the effects of capture technique on injury and survival of the species. We monitored radiotagged, injured lesser prairie-chickens 7-65 d postcapture to assess survival rates of injured individuals. Injuries occurred disproportionately among trap type, injury type, and sex. The predominant injuries were superficial cuts to the extremities of males captured in walk-in funnel traps. However, we observed no mortalities due to trapping, postcapture survival rates of injured birds did not vary across trap types, and the daily survival probability of an injured and uninjured bird was ≥99%. Frequency and intensity of injuries in walk-in funnel traps are due to the passive nature of these traps (researcher cannot select specific individuals for capture) and incidental capture of individuals not needed for research. Comparatively, rocket nets and drop nets allow observers to target birds for capture and require immediate removal of captured individuals from the trap. Based on our results, trap injuries would be reduced if researchers monitor and immediately remove birds from walk-in funnels before they injure themselves; move traps to target specific birds and reduce recaptures; limit the number of consecutive trapping days on a lek; and use proper netting techniques that incorporate quick, efficient, trained handling procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)318-326
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Fish and Wildlife Management
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2015


  • Capture
  • Drop net
  • Lesser prairie-chicken
  • Rocket net
  • Shinnery oak prairie
  • Survival
  • Walk-in funnel


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