The investigator should provide information on the population to be studied and a rationale for choosing that particular population. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) issues many of the necessary permits. In issuing permits the USFWS assesses the risk to the animal population and the IACUC may rely on that assessment rather than attempt to determine the potential impact on the population.
With regard to small or declining populations, many state wildlife or natural resource agencies also issue research permits. In the event that a state research permit is required and has been issued, the IACUC may assume that the state agency has assessed the risk to the population and found it to be acceptable.
An IACUC that has additional questions about the selection of species or the impact on the population to be studied may require the investigator to provide additional information or the Committee may consult with biologists with relevant expertise.
The selection of the study site for the research should maximize the opportunity for data collection and minimize the disruption caused by the investigator. The selection process should also take into consideration other activities in the area, such as agricultural practices, tourism, and hunting, which may interfere with the research protocol.
Permission to utilize the site may be necessary and the investigator must be able to assure the IACUC that necessary permits or permission have or will be obtained. Appendix E describes various site-specific permits required for field investigations.
The potential short- and long-term effects of procedures on individual ani-mals should be evaluated in all protocols. If animals are to be captured, the methods used and the numbers involved should be detailed in the protocol submitted to the IACUC. There should be a description of measures taken to prevent potential injuries and alleviate potential distress, and of the possible impact of capture on subsequent behavior and survival of the animals.
If animals are to be monitored individually, the investigator must indicate whether they will be identified by natural markings or will be artificially
marked. If the animals are to be artificially marked, there must be a des-cription of methods to be used and potential trauma (e.g., paint markings may increase visibility to predators). Capture and marking methods are often a matter of practicality and usually have been developed and evalu-ated over a period of time. There is a substantial body of literature regarding the effect of mark-and-recapture studies and other study tech-niques on wild animals. The IACUC or investigator may rely on consultation with experts in the relevant discipline for this information. In issuing permits the USFWS also assesses capture and marking activities, and the IACUC may rely on that assessment in considering the appropriateness of a particular technique.
Field experimental procedures are commonly used to test hypotheses. In all instances, any potential pain or distress to an individual animal must be assessed and the investigator's justification evaluated in the context of the potential value of the data to be obtained.
Techniques for remotely recording behavioral or physiological data in the field are valuable and often minimally invasive. When possible, the least invasive procedures should be chosen (e.g., use of hormone assays of urine or feces rather than blood samples). When removal of individuals is necessary to take measurements or tissue samples, the IACUC should take into account the degree of invasiveness of the procedure and potential problems associated with return of the animal to the field. For example, animals should be released in a condition that enables them to avoid predators, seek shelter, and survive inclement weather.
Individual animals may also be treated experimentally to alter their behavior or physiology by surgery or drugs. Any invasive surgery, such as organ removal or implanting transmitters, should be done using aseptic technique. The use and choice of anesthesia will be affected by field conditions because some agents are difficult to transport or use in field conditions. Anesthetics that do not clear from the system quickly may require holding the animal longer as they may compromise the animal's ability to survive when released. The potential for human consumption of contaminated game species should also be considered.
Procedures involving site manipulation should be adequately justified by the investigator. For example, investigators may remove or, in rare and well-justified cases, add a predator; however, state law may prohibit releases of non-native invasive species. If fences are erected to limit movement of individuals or populations, the impact on other species should be considered.
Euthanasia of wildlife in the field can raise unique and challenging issues. The Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia includes considerations and techniques for euthanasia of wildlife and should be used by the IACUC as a resource.
Conclusion Many of these issues are difficult to address definitively, but their con-sideration will help the IACUC judge the potential impact and value of the study proposed, and can be expected to assist the investigator in obtaining maximum information from the study with minimum negative impact on the animals studied or their environment. The IACUC should ensure that the investigator complies with applicable regulations and policies and obtains any required permits; the IACUC may wish to obtain copies. Many of the issues arising from proposals to conduct field research on vertebrate animals will require the judgment of experienced professionals in the field and the IACUC should feel free to seek advice or consultation if necessary.
References Acceptable field methods in mammalogy: Preliminary guidelines approved by the American Society of Mammalogists. 1987. J Mammalogy 68(4, Suppl.): 1-18. Bowman, P. 1989. Institutional animal care and use committee review of wildlife field research. Lab Animal 18 (3): 28-30. Burghardt, Z.M. and H.A. Herzog, Jr. 1980. Beyond conspecifics: Is Brer Rabbit our brother? Bioscience 30: 763-768. Guidelines for the Capture, Handling, and Care of Mammals. Undated. American Society of Mammologists. (http:www.mammalsociety.org/committees/commanimalcareuse/ 98acucguidelines.PDF)
Guidelines for the treatment of animals in behavioural research and teaching. 2000. Animal Behavior 59:253-257. Guidelines for the use of fish in field research. 1987. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (SIH), American Fisheries Society (AFS), and the American Institute of Fisheries Research Biologists (AIFRB). Copeia (Suppl.) 1-12. Also: Fisheries 13(2):16-23. Guidelines for the Use of Live Amphibians and Reptiles in Field Research. 1987. American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists (ASIH), The Herpetologists' League (HL), and the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAR). J Herpetology 4 (Suppl.): 1-14. Guidelines to the use of wild birds in research. 2d Edition, 1999. The Ornithological Council.
(Available at www.nmnh.si.edu/BIRDNET or in hard copy for $8.00 per copy; send orders to Max Thompson, Assistant Treasurer, American Ornithologists' Union, Dept. of Biology, 100 College Street, Winfield, KS 67158-8382). [Replaces in entirety the Report of committee on the use of wild birds in research. 1988. American Ornithologists' Union, Auk 105(1, Suppl.): 1A-41A.]
Orlans, F.B., Ed. 1988. Field research guidelines: Impact on animal care and use committee. Scientists Center for Animal Welfare. Bethesda, MD.
Report of the AVMA Panel on Euthanasia, JAVMA, Vol. 218, No. 5, March 1, 2001.