Decreased access to potent narcotics for wildlife applications has stimulated the need to explore alternative drug combinations for ungulate immobilizations. A combination of butorphanol, azaperone, and medetomidine (BAM) has been used for some ungulate species, but information on its use in bison (Bison bison) is limited. We conducted field trials using BAM, in conjunction with atipamezole and naltrexone as antagonists, for reversible field immobilization of bison during ground- and helicopter-based operations. We compared times to induction and recovery, vital rates (rectal temperature and respiration rate), and the quality of induction, immobilization, and recovery between ground- and helicopter-based immobilizations of bison. Overall, 15 of 21 bison were induced with the volume we used (mean±SD=3.4±0.6 mL); two other animals darted from a helicopter required a full second dose, and four others (two darted from the ground and two from a helicopter) required a supplemental partial dose to achieve induction. All immobilizations achieved a sufficient plane of anesthesia to permit minor invasive procedures (e.g., skin biopsy and blood sampling). All animals recovered, and most (17 of 21) were reversed in ≤5 min. The mean time to induction was 10.8±7.3 min while that for recovery was 5.0±2.1 min. We found few differences in vital rates or the quality of immobilizations between ground- and helicopter-based captures. The drug combination provided good immobilization and was reliably reversed; however, inconsistent inductions at the doses we used may limit its use in field immobilizations of bison, particularly those animals being darted from a helicopter.
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Vol. 54 • No. 4