The effects of vaginal implant transmitters for tissue damage after 11 wk in 13 captive adult elk (Cervus elaphus nelsoni) and subsequent reproductive performance in 38 free-ranging elk were evaluated. Vaginal implant transmitters are designed to be shed at parturition and are used to locate birth sites of wild ungulates; however, potential adverse effects of these transmitters on tissues associated with the vaginal walls or subsequent reproductive performance have not been assessed. Vaginal implant transmitters consist of a transmitter encased in inert acrylic with an antenna trailing out the distal end and wings at the proximal end to hold the transmitter in place. Using a laparoscope on sedated captive elk, necrosis or measurable differences in tissue trauma between designs with wing spans of 80 versus 150 mm over an 11-wk trial were not observed. After the captive elk trial, vaginal implant transmitters with 80-mm wings were placed into 38 pregnant wild elk, and 31 live births were documented. Fates of seven calves were not determined, because their transmitters were not shed at the birth site. We recaptured 36 of these cow elk again in fall 2003 or spring 2004, and 32 were pregnant. This study was unable to document any short- or long-term effects of vaginal implant transmitters on reproductive performance of cow elk in captive and free-range environments.
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Vol. 37 • No. 3