Wildlife researchers are being warned that radio-tracking could be affecting the animals they are studying. According to new research published today in the British Ecological Societys Journal of Applied Ecology, fitting radio-collars to water voles was associated with a "dramatic shift" in the sex ratio of the animals offspring, casting doubt on the assumption that radio-tracking does not fundamentally affect the biology of radio-collared water voles.
The water vole (Arvicola terrestris) is an endangered species in the UK, and ecologists Dr Tom Moorhouse and Professor David Macdonald of Oxford Universitys Wildlife Conservation Research Unit had been monitoring the size of two populations - one in Norfolk and one Wiltshire - when they noticed a 48% decline in the number of females born at the Norfolk site. At both sites vole numbers had been monitored using small traps baited with apple and carrot during 2002 and 2003, voles being released after counting. However, Moorhouse and Macdonald had also fitted radio-collars to 38 of the voles caught at the Norfolk site for in-depth study of the voles movements.
According to Moorhouse and Macdonald: "Our analysis revealed that the most likely cause for the female decline was a shift in the sex ratio of young raised by radio-collared females. This result has implications for conservation research, especially for monitoring water vole populations."
Lynne Miller | EurekAlert!
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