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Field anesthesia of least weasels (Mustela nivalis nivalis) with isoflurane

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Author(s): L. Gorini | S. J. Wedul | J. M. Arnemo | J. D. C. Linnell | L. Boitani | E. B. Nilsen

Journal: Wildlife Biology in Practice
ISSN 1646-1509

Volume: 9;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 7;
Date: 2013;
Original page

Keywords: immobilization | nest box | portable anesthesia unit

ABSTRACT
The aggressive and agile nature of weasels makes the use of inhalant anesthetics preferable to injectable agents. Inhalant anesthetics generally reduce the handling time, cause less stress and present no risk of delivering the drug into an unintended area. Here we report on the use of the safe inhalant anesthetic isoflurane in the least weasel in the wild. We used a battery powered portable anesthesia unit to immobilize the animals in the field. The isoflurane liquid was filled in a syringe connected to a vaporizer where it mixed with the air coming from an air pump. The animals inhaled the anesthetic first in a wooden chamber and then through a modified facial mask. Mean induction time in the anesthetic chamber was 4.8 minutes (± 0.3 SE) with 4% isoflurane. The anesthesia was maintained with the facial mask and 2% isoflurane. Mean recovery time was 16.4 minutes (± 2.1 SE). With the exception of one animal which was found dead 11 days post-capture of undetermined cause, we had no fatalities during anesthesia. Recovery time is quick and isoflurane is inexpensive and easy to use in least weasels. The anesthesia unit is costly but easily converted to a light battery powered portable one. We conclude that the use of isoflurane is safe in least weasels but because we were not able of monitoring the animals following their release, we recommend further evaluation of the anesthetic. In addition, we recommend the use of a wooden anesthetic chamber with bedding to avoid the risk of hypothermia.
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