Overwinter changes in urea nitrogen:creatinine and cortisol:creatinine ratios in urine from Banks Island Peary caribou
AbstractOver 200 snow urine samples were collected from Banks Island Peary caribou between March 1993 and May 1998. Most (n = 146) samples were collected during 3 time periods in 5 successive years: early winter (3 November-3 December), mid-winter (9 February-1 March), and late-winter (23 April-2 May). We determined the ratios of urea nitrogen:creatinine (U:C) and cortisol:creatinine (C:C) for each sample. U:C ratios had significant year, time, and year x time interaction effects. Mid-winter ratios were higher than early or late-winter ratios. U:C ratios ranged from 0.53 to 19.05 mg/mg, and were lowest in 1997-98. Five calf caribou sacrificed in February 1994 had significantly (P<0.02) higher U:C ratios than other caribou in mid-winter. Three adult male and 2 calf caribou sacrificed in November 1993 had U:C ratios similar to other caribou in early winter. Sacrificed caribou were in similar condition to animals that have been harvested for subsistent use in other years, not overly fat nor in an advanced state of starvation. U:C ratios for Peary caribou range from 10 to ca. 100-fold higher than those reported for barren-ground caribou; ratios > 60-fold higher than those indicative of prolonged undernutrition in barren-ground caribou were common. This difference is likely because the winter diet of Peary caribou has a higher crude protein content than that of barren-ground caribou. C:C ratios had significant year and year x time interaction effects, and were highest in 1996-97 and 1997-98. C:C ratios of sacrificed caribou were similar to those of other animals during early and mid-winter. C:C ratios for Peary caribou ranged from 0.0120 ug/mg to 0.2678 ug/mg; ratios indicative of morbidity in mule deer were common. C:C and U:C ratios from the same individuals were not correlated (R = -0.073). Monitoring U:C ratios of Banks Island Peary caribou may provide useful management information.
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