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Zoo Biol. 2017 May;36(3):220-225. doi: 10.1002/zoo.21359. Epub 2017 Mar 10.

Investigation of techniques to measure cortisol and testosterone concentrations in coyote hair.

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Committee on Evolutionary Biology, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois.
Department of Wildland Resources, USDA-WS-NWRC, Predator Research Facility, Utah State University, Logan, Utah.
Department of Psychology, Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Department of Conservation and Science, Lincoln Park Zoo, Chicago, Illinois.


Long-term noninvasive sampling for endangered or elusive species is particularly difficult due to the challenge of collecting fecal samples before hormone metabolite desiccation, as well as the difficulty in collecting a large enough sample size from all individuals. Hair samples may provide an environmentally stable alternative that provides a long-term assessment of stress and reproductive hormone profiles for captive, zoo, and wild mammals. Here, we extracted and analyzed both cortisol and testosterone in coyote (Canis latrans) hair for the first time. We collected samples from 5-week old coyote pups (six female, six male) housed at the USDA-NWRC Predator Research Facility in Millville, UT. Each individual pup was shaved in six different locations to assess variation in concentrations by body region. We found that pup hair cortisol (F5,57.1  = 0.47, p = 0.80) and testosterone concentrations (F5,60  = 1.03, p = 0.41) did not differ as a function of body region. Male pups generally had higher cortisol concentrations than females (males = 17.71 ± 0.85 ng/g, females = 15.48 ± 0.24 ng/g; F1,57.0  = 5.06, p = 0.028). Comparatively, we did not find any differences between male and female testosterone concentrations (males = 2.86 ± 0.17 ng/g, females = 3.12 ± 0.21 ng/g; F1,60  = 1.42, p = 0.24). These techniques represent an attractive method in describing long-term stress and reproductive profiles of captive, zoo-housed, and wild mammal populations.


Canis latrans; cortisol; hair; mammals; testosterone

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