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Scared to Death


White-Tailed Deer Fawn
White-Tailed Deer Fawn

Scared to death, at times, is not just an idiomatic phrase. Wildlife can suffer from a condition called capture myopathy, which affects their muscles, kidneys, and the heart and causes significant damage that is often fatal. Capture myopathy is caused by stress that occurs during capture, either the capture directly from the wild or during relocation while in captivity, or during captive care. Fear that directly causes death. The animal becomes so significantly stressed that it causes actual degenerative damage to their muscles and organs. The first signs of capture myopathy are usually “anxiety, shivering, rapid breathing, bent neck (torticollis), dark red urine, and hyperthermia” (Dorothy Breed, et al., 2019). After capture myopathy presents it is highly unlikely that the animal will be able to recover. As time passes, the animal's muscle and organ damage worsens, causing more suffering until death. A comparable condition that one might be able to relate it to is the effects of crush injuries such as compartment syndrome (Dorothy Breed, et al., 2019).


Juvenile White-Tailed Prairie Hare
Juvenile White-Tailed Prairie Hare



Red-breasted Nuthatch
Red-breasted Nuthatch

The animals that most commonly are affected by capture myopathy in Alberta are wild hares, other wild rabbit species, birds, deer, and moose. It is not limited to these animals though as it can affect any wildlife, the animals mentioned above are just more prone to it as seen in wildlife rehabilitation efforts. Capture myopathy is a condition that causes significant suffering for wild animals and unfortunately, right now there is no treatment for it. The only thing that can be done right now to improve survival rates is prevention efforts (Dorothy Breed, et al., 2019).


At Calgary Wildlife Rehabilitation Society we do our best to practice and promote prevention efforts to lessen the suffering and death caused by capture myopathy. When interacting with the public, either on our hotline, at education events, or on social media, we always recommend leaving wildlife alone unless it is necessary to intervene. If you encounter a wild animal that has a minor injury but is still able to survive well on their own, it is best not to bring them in for rehabilitation. Doing so may cause more stress to the animal and expose them to the risk of developing capture myopathy. In our clinic, we take measures to prevent capture myopathy. We limit the handling and transfer of patients as much as possible. Additionally, we try to minimize noise in the patient enclosures to create a calm environment. These actions help limit the stress on patients that might cause capture myopathy. Of course, some things cannot be limited like when medications need to be administered or wound care needs to be done which means that there is always some risk of a patient developing capture myopathy in care. This is why it is so important to be discerning when deciding if wildlife truly needs to come into the clinic for care.

For more detailed information about capture myopathy, please visit: https://academic.oup.com/conphys/article/7/1/coz027/5528374?login=false




North American Beaver
North American Beaver

References:


Dorothy Breed, Leith C. R. Meyer, Johan C. A. Steyl, Amelia Goddard, Richard Burroughs, and Terius A. Kohn. Editor: Andrea Fuller. “Conserving wildlife in a changing world: Understanding capture myopathy–a malignant outcome of stress during capture and translocation.” Conservation Physiology, vol. 7, Issue 1, July 2019, coz027, https://doi.org/10.1093/conphys/coz027


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