Glucocorticosteroid concentrations in feces and hair of captive caribou and reindeer following adrenocorticotropic hormone challenge. Academic Article uri icon


  • Climate change and industrial development are contributing to synchronous declines in Rangifer populations across the Arctic. Chronic stress has been implicated as a proximate factor associated with decline in free-ranging populations, but its role in Rangifer is unspecified. Analysis of glucocorticosteroid (GC) concentration in feces, and more recently in hair, is a non-invasive method for monitoring stress in wildlife. Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) released from the pituitary gland stimulates GC release from the adrenals and can be administered to reflect adrenal activation. In this study, we assessed concentrations of GC metabolites in feces and cortisol in hair of Alaskan caribou (Rangifer tarandus granti) and reindeer (R. t. tarandus) following ACTH treatment. We predicted that ACTH challenge would increase concentrations of fecal GCs, but not hair cortisol because steroid deposited into the hair shaft occurs over an extended period of time (months) and is likely insensitive to acute adrenal stimulation. Adult caribou (n=10; mean age, 6.5 years old) exhibited a peak increase in fecal GCs 8h following a 2 IU/kg dose of ACTH compared to pre-injection concentrations. In contrast, sub-adult reindeer (n=10, 0.8 years old) elicited a diminished response to the same dose. Quadrupling the dose (8 IU/kg) prolonged the fecal GC response in female reindeer, but male reindeer were unresponsive. Hair cortisol was unaffected by a single ACTH challenge. Further investigation is required to ascertain whether subspecific differences in adrenal sensitivity are attributed to age or sex differences, or historical selective pressures from semi-domestication and/or sedentary life cycle in reindeer.

published proceedings

  • Gen Comp Endocrinol

author list (cited authors)

  • Ashley, N. T., Barboza, P. S., Macbeth, B. J., Janz, D. M., Cattet, M., Booth, R. K., & Wasser, S. K.

citation count

  • 90

complete list of authors

  • Ashley, NT||Barboza, PS||Macbeth, BJ||Janz, DM||Cattet, MRL||Booth, RK||Wasser, SK