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Measuring Stress Hormones from Hair

Hair samples may provide an alternative to fecal samples for measuring the stress and reproductive hormone profiles of captive, zoo and wild mammals.

In a novel study, NWRC researchers extracted and analyzed both cortisol and testosterone in coyote hair. Samples were collected from 5-week-old coyote pups housed at the NWRC Utah field station. Each individual pup was shaved in six different locations to assess variation in hormone concentrations by body region.

Researchers found that pup hair cortisol and testosterone concentrations did not differ as a function of body region. Male pups generally had higher cortisol concentrations than females, but researchers did not find any differences between male and female testosterone concentrations. These techniques represent an attractive method for describing long-term stress and reproductive profiles of captive, zoo and wild mammal populations.

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