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Bears:Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with caption Click here for full-page view with captionLagomorphs:Carrying pygmy rabbits in pet carrying boxes. Click here for full page view with caption Transfering from live trap to cloth bag. Click here for full page view with caption Handling a rabbit within a bag. Click here for full page view with caption Handling a rabbit within a bag. Click here for full page view with caption Plastic carrier with offset hinge. Click here for full page view with caption Slippery table top. Click here for full page view with caption Non-slip mat for handling rabbits. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit field of view. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 1. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 2. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 3. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage 4. Click here for full page view with caption Rabbit in a top-opening wire mesh cage. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 1. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 2. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 3. Click here for full page view with caption Removing a rabbit from a top-opening cage 4. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting a rabbit onto a handling mat.. Click here for full page view with caption Restraining a rabbit on a mat. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 1. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 2. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 3. Click here for full page view with caption Lifting and turning a rabbit 4. Click here for full page view with caption Tonic immobility / Hypnosis / Trancing. Click here for full page view with caption Pre-release leverets in travel cage. Click here for full page view with caption

Introduction and General Information

Whenever possible, animals should be managed without the need for any form of handling or restraint. 

When mammals are to be caught, handled and moved, it is important that potential problems are considered beforehand, to minimise the risk of injury to the mammals and to the people involved.

  • Enclosures should be designed with handling in mind. This may involve:
    • design ensuring that animals can easily be shut into a small holding area (indoor area, nest box, cage etc.) when required;
    • outdoor enclosures including a small handling/isolation yard;
    • incorporation of a race for herbivores.
    • incorporation of a squeeze cage facility in carnivore areas.
    • design to allow attachment of a travelling crate to the indoor area or a specified outdoor site.
    • elimination of sharp or protruding items which could injure the animal, particularly during capture or when partially sedated.
  • Where features such as a handling yard or race are included, animals should go through these as a normal part of their husbandry routine.

(B429.3.w3, B438.24.w24, V.w5)

Essential considerations for capture and restraint:

Before initiating any physical capture or restraint procedure, check that:

  • sufficient skilled personnel are available and that "onlookers" are kept away; (B429.3.w3)
  • it is practical to carry out the planned procedure using physical restraint; (B429.3.w3)
  • the facilities and equipment will permit the capture/restraint; (B429.3.w3)
  • the procedure can be carried out without compromising the health of the animal; (B429.3.w3)
  • the procedure can be carried out without compromising the safety of personnel involved; (B10.6.w44, B429.3.w3)
  • the procedure for which the animal is to be restrained does not involve significant pain (if it does, then use of an anaesthetic drug should be considered). (B429.3.w3)
    • physical restraint is generally used for short, minor procedures such as blood sampling or giving an injection. (B429.3.w3)
  • The risks of human injury, and health risks to the animal, should be considered before initiating any catching, handling or movement.
Risks to the mammal from physical restraint
  • Muscle strain;
  • Injury, including e.g. damage to horns or antlers and severe injury such as a broken limb or spine;
  • Capture myopathy;
    • Note: Prolonged chasing, and/or a long period of physical restraint with a struggling animal, increases the risk of the development of Capture Myopathy
  • Hyperthermia (see: Hyperthermia - Sunstroke - Heatstroke in Waterfowl, Elephants and Bears);
    • Avoid handling animals in temperatures above 32.2 C (90 F) or humidity over 70%. (B10.6.w44)
    • If handling is essential in hot or humid conditions, ensure that cooling fans and/or ice water are available for cooling the animal. (B10.6.w44)
  • Stress (which may be minor or cause physiological changes which are life-threatening).
    • Touching of the animal by humans and by objects causes stress, and should be minimised once the animal is safely captured. (B10.6.w44)
    • Once an animal is captured, use of a blindfold can greatly reduce stress. (B10.6.w44)

    • Noises, including mechanical noise, harsh voice tones etc. are stressful and should be reduced. (B10.6.w44, D208.5.w5)

  • Note: transportation (in crates, by plane, truck etc.) is stressful; restraint of a recently transported animal should be avoided if possible, particularly after a long journey. (B10.6.w44)

(J213.4.w2, V.w5)

Risks to the handler(s) during physical restraint
  • Many mammals are very strong and have the potential to cause great injury to the handler(s).
  • For most mammals, the most dangerous parts of the animal are the teeth and/or the feet (claws/hooves).
    • For each individual catch-up procedure, the mammal's available defensive weapons, and methods to protect people from them, should be considered. (B429.3.w3)
  • For large mammals, the danger due to the sheer size and mass of the animal must be considered, particularly if the animal is able to charge or can trap a human against a solid object (wall, fence, tree, ground etc.)
Psychological tools in restraint
  • Reduce sight: a darkened environment may be used for diurnal species. (B10.6.w44)

Additional considerations
  • Consider the animal's flight distance: how this may affect capture and how it may be used to make safe capture easier. (B429.3.w3)

  • Think about unexpected events which could occur during the restraint procedure. (B429.3.w3)

  • Remember that wild animals are usually stronger than similar domestic animals. (V.w5)

  • A low level of tranquillisation may facilitate physical restraint. (B438.24.w24)

Role of training
  • The need for physical or chemical restraint for handling and movement may be greatly reduced by the use of training such as target training.
  • Animals can be trained for simple management procedures, such as moving between indoor and outdoor areas.
  • Target training may allow a number of routine management procedures, such as weighing, nail/hoof trimming etc. without the need for physical restraint of the animal.
  • With time, it is possible to train animals and desensitise them to accept procedures such as physical and ultrasound examinations, topical treatments, and even injections and taking of blood samples without physical restraint.

(B10.6.w44, B123, B429.3.w3, D208.5.w5, J213.4.w2, V.w5)

Bear Considerations

Bears are large, strong carnivores. They have the potential to severely injure and even kill humans. Both the teeth and the claws are dangerous. Bears have well-developed, extremely strong jaw muscles. The claws can rip and tear; their strength makes bears dangerous to handle. Despite their clumsy appearance, bears can move very fast and are extremely agile and a large bear can kill a human with a single paw swat. (B123.19.w19)
  • Bears are very strong and have compact bodies; physical restraint of these species is difficult. (B10.48.w43, B16.9.w9, B64.26.w5)
  • It is advisable not to handle carnivores immediately after they have eaten, since they may regurgitate food and could then inhale particles, leading to aspiration pneumonia. (B123.19.w19)
  • Care should be taken whenever entering a work area around a bear enclosure. It is important to know where the bear(s) are in the enclosure and which doors are open or closed. (B123.19.w19)
  • There is a risk of bears becoming hyperthermic during restraint and immobilisation and this can be fatal. (J1.25.w6) See: Hyperthermia - Sunstroke - Heatstroke in Waterfowl, Elephants and Bears
    • Bears start panting when they become hyperthermic. In Ursus americanus - American black bear in the Great Dismal Swamp, panting began once the rectal temperature reached 42.0 C. Death was reported in a bear whose temperature reached 43 C. (J1.25.w6)
    • N.B. a bear whose body temperature (measured by rectal thermometer) reaches 40 C during physical or chemical restraint should be actively cooled: shelter the bear from direct sunlight, wet the bear down, and if possible antagonise anaesthetic drugs to reduce the time for which the bear is anaesthetised and has compromised thermoregulation. (J1.25.w6)

Lagomorph Consideration

  • Rabbits and other lagomorphs are prey species and are alert for sudden movements which may indicate an attacking predator. They have very good frontal and dorsal vision. (J15.29.w2)
    • Do not touch a rabbit under the chin to "calm" it; this area is very sensitive. (J15.29.w2)
  • Rabbits have a relatively delicate skeleton (8% of total body weight, compared to 12-13% in domestic cats) ; they are prone to fractures of the long bones or skull during struggling. (J213.2.w2)
  • Rabbits have a very powerful kick; a single kick with the hind legs when a rabbit is being restrained can be enough to subluxate or fracture lumbar or lumbosacral vertebrae (rabbits have a weak caudal lumbar spine), with permanent paralysis resulting. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2, J15.29.w2)
  • Lagomorphs should be approached calmly and quietly; avoid sudden movements while approaching and handling lagomorphs. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
  • A lagomorph which struggles excessively when restrained should be placed back in a suitable carrying box or onto a solid surface. (J213.2.w2)
  • Note: Stress of handling can result in excessive release of catecholamines and endogenous steroids; these can cause tachycardia, hypertension, hyperglycaemia and reduced renal perfusion - changes which are likely to further compromise an already ill individual. (B601.2.w2)
  • Ensure that any surface the lagomorph is being held on is non-slip; rubber mats, towels etc. can be used on a stainless-steel examining table to provide a less slippery surface. (J213.2.w2)
  • Do not obstruct the nostrils: lagomorphs are obligate nasal breathers. (B601.2.w2)
  • Remember that rabbits can kick painfully scratch their handler. (B611.4.w4, B614.5.w5)
Domestic rabbit
  • Handling in early life may improve rabbit welfare; it has been shown that even minimal human contact of kits soon after nursing reduces their fear responses toward humans later. (J288.95.w1)
Wild lagomorphs
  • Wild lagomorphs must be handled carefully, remembering that they are easily stressed, prone to damaging their spine by kicking while restrained, and that they will scratch and kick. (B64.22.w8)
  • Wild rabbits and hares will rake at the handler; they also scratch with the claws of the forefeet. (B64.22.w8)
  • When handling wild lagomorphs, wear long sleeves for protection. (B64.22.w8)
  • Rabbits and hares also can give deep bites with their incisors. (J213.9.w4)
  • Rabbits and hares are most likely to be aggressive during the breeding season. (J213.9.w4)
  • Wild lagomorphs, and particularly pikas, are very susceptible to heat stress as well as general stress during restraint. (B64.22.w8)
  • If wild lagomorphs panic during handling, leaving them alone for a short while allows them to calm down. (J533.15.w1)
  • While hand-reared individuals may become quite tame. they may still object to being caught and handled. (J332.28.w2)
Ferret Consideration
  • Ferrets are relatively small, agile and fast-moving carnivores. They are not usually vicious, but may bite if stressed, for example.
    • Ferrets which are handled frequently usually are easy to handle. (J29.8.w2)
    • Juveniles may nip (as do kittens and puppies) (B602.2.w2, J29.8.w2); ferrets handled infrequently, or a nursing female, might bite. (B602.2.w2)
    • A very frightened ferret may bite an unfamiliar hand which invades its cage. (J29.6.w1)
    • Certain odours on the hands might encourage biting. (J29.6.w1)
  • Basic rules for ferret handling include being positive, calm, confident and friendly, moving smoothly and decisively, and using the voice as well as the hands. (B652.3.w3)
    • Ferret kits should be handled from an early age. (B652.3.w3)
    • Ferrets have better sense of smell and hearing than sight, therefore the voice should be used to identify you to the ferret. Decisive movements mean that you (e.g. your finger) is less likely to be mistaken for prey. (B652.3.w3)
    • Ferrets should be handled daily, several times a day. (B652.3.w3)
    • Avoid disturbing and handling a ferret while it is eating. (B652.3.w3)
    • More patience is required to re-train an older ferret which has been neglected, but this is possible with time. (B651.4.w4, B652.3.w3)
Bonobo Consideration Physical restraint is not recommended for the great apes; it is both difficult and dangerous for the people and ape concerned. (B336.39.w39, B649.4.w4)

Involuntary mechanical restraint of great apes should be avoided, although squeeze cage systems may be used together with husbandry training to reduce the stress felt by the ape. (B649.4.w4)

Experiences at Milwaukee County Zoo, Wisconsin, USA have shown that a well-developed programme of positive reinforcement training (see below - Husbandry Training) can not only allow many husbandry and veterinary procedures to be carried out without either physical or chemical restraint but can greatly improve the relationship between keepers and bonobos, reduce stress levels, improve social interactions within the bonobo group and provide "a cascade of other benefits." (P1.2002.w10) 

Published Guidelines linked in Wildpro

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Equipment for Catching and Holding Mammals

Suitable equipment must be available for catching, holding and transporting mammals. Equipment required will vary greatly depending on the animal species (size, strength, long legs, good at digging etc.) and age.

General considerations
  • Personnel involved with capture and restraint must be familiar with the use of the equipment. (B10.6.w44)

  • Equipment such as nets and cloths of all types can act as fomites. They should be cleaned and disinfected ausefter . (J213.4.w2)

  • Nets which are allowed to remain soiled may rot and lose strength, and may become stiff and less easy to use. (V.w5)

  • Ideally, all equipment should be cleaned and checked thoroughly after use and also checked immediately before use. (V.w5)

Hoop nets
  • Useful for catching and restraining mammals up to about 20 kg (depending on the species). (J213.4.w2)

  • Different sizes of nets (different pole lengths, size of hoop and net size) should be available for use with different species.

  • The mesh size should be appropriate for the size of the animal, preventing escape and preventing injury due to the animal forcing parts of the body, particularly the head, through the mesh. 

  • Nets made from opaque material may be preferable for some species. 

  • The net should be deep enough so that it can be flipped back on itself or twisted to keep the animal in the net and provide control. 

  • Nets with a metal rim are preferable to those with a plastic rim, since the plastic rim is less rigid and some animals (particularly primates) may be able to lift it and escape.

  • Particularly for smaller animals, the rim should be padded to reduce the risk of injury to the animal.

  • The net must be checked for holes and weaknesses due to wear.

  • Note that carnivores may chew through nets and escape.

  • Nets commonly are on a round frame. A square frame, or one with a right-angled corner, can be useful to prevent the animal escaping between a corner (e.g. where the fence meets the ground) and the edge of the net.

(B10.6.w44, B214.2.2.2.w12, J213.4.w2, P1.1976.w4, V.w5)

Cargo nets/loose nets
  • For catching and restraining medium-sized mammals.

  • For carrying medium to large size animals.

  • The mesh size should be appropriate for the size of the animal, preventing escape and preventing injury due to the animal forcing parts of the body, particularly the head, through the mesh. 

  • The net must be checked for holes and weaknesses due to wear.

  • Note that carnivores may chew through nets and escape.

(B10.6.w44, V.w5)

Protective gloves/gauntlets
  • Protective gloves are available in a range of thicknesses and materials. Heavier gloves, while providing more protection, also reduce the wearer's dexterity and may lead to (a) an unsecure grip; (b) excess pressure being applied to the animal. (B10.6.w44, J213.4.w2, P1.1976.w4, V.w5)

  • Gloves may be useful to increase the handler's confidence; this may also lead to over-confidence and reduced caution. 

  • Large carnivores are able to bite through most gloves, or to crush fingers through the gloves without damaging the gloves. (B10.6.w44, J213.4.w2)

  • Sometimes it is useful to dangle a glove (not enclosing a hand) in front of an animal and let it grab the glove, then catch the animal with the other hand while its attention and teeth/claws are occupied. (J213.4.w2, V.w5)

  • Additionally, either latex or disposable nitrile gloves may be used to provide protection from direct contact with the animal and its secretions/excretions, reducing the risk of the handler being exposed to zoonotic organisms, or to toxins such as oil on the animal's body.

  • A towel or blanket provides both a visual shield and some physical protection from teeth, claws, legs, horns and antlers for the handler. (B10.6.w44, J213.4.w2)

  • The appropriate size and weight of towel depends on the species being captured. A very thick towel used on a very small animal (e.g. a mouse) may lead to similar problems to thick gloves, while a thinner towel used on a larger species will not provide much protection.

  • The towel both distracts the animal and limits its field of vision. (J213.4.w2)

  • Some species are calmed by having their head covered by a towel. (J213.4.w2)

  • Some species are calmed by having something (the towel) to grasp. (J213.4.w2)

  • Towels or other cloths can act as fomites and should be washed and sanitised after use. 

(B10.6.w44, J213.4.w2, V.w5)

Cloth bags
  • Cloth bags of various sizes and thicknesses are useful for short-term containment and restraint of various mammals.

  • Seams should be taped or should be on the outside of the bag, so that the animal cannot become caught in the seam or loose threads.

  • An advantage of using bags is that bags block the animal's sight, which reduces its ability to aim teeth or claws, and may calm some species.

  • A disadvantage is that it totally blocks sight of animal from the handler, which prevents any visual assessment of animals physical state or level of stress.

Clear plastic/Perspex tubes
  • Tubes may be used for restraint of some small mammals. (B10.6.w44)

  • Tubes should be an appropriate size for the animal: 10 -15% greater than the animal's diameter, to allow the animal to move a little but prevent it from turning around. (J213.4.w2)

  • Towels or other materials are used to plug the tube ends and adjust the effective length of the tube. (J213.4.w2)

  • Tubes with holes or slits can be used to allow some access to parts of the animal. (J213.4.w2)

  • These tubes are also useful for restraint for induction of anaesthesia using inhalation agents. (J213.4.w2)

  • Tubes are more suitable for some species than for others.

Handheld shields
  • For hoofstock, large, opaque boards can be used, eliminating the human shape. (J213.4.w2)

    • The board should preferably have handles on the handler's side (about two thirds of the way up the board), and a viewing hole to allow the user to see and respond to the animal. (J213.4.w2, P1.1976.w4)

      • Simple plywood sheets can be used if boards with handles are not available. (B10.6.w44)

    • The animal may be herded using the board. (J213.4.w2)

    • Boards can be used to herd an animal between two cages which have swinging rather than guillotine doors. (B10.6.w44)

    • Boards also allow a protected approach either for observation or for injection using a pole syringe. (J213.4.w2, P1.1976.w4)

  • For smaller mammals, a transparent shield of Plexiglass can be used. (J213.4.w2)

    • This should have a handle on the operator's side. (J213.4.w2)

    • The board can be used to push an animal backwards and hold it against a solid wall. (J213.4.w2)

    • Holes in the shield allow injections to be given with the shield in place. (J213.4.w2)

Snares (catch poles, dog graspers)
  • These consist of a noose on the end of a pole. (J213.4.w2) The noose can be tightened around the animal; the size of the noose is controlled from the other end of the pole.

  • Care must be taken not to tighten the loop too much and affect the animal's breathing. 

  • It is preferable to place the noose around the neck plus one foreleg for most species. This prevents excess pressure on the trachea if the noose is tightened or the animal struggles.

    • If the noose is around the neck only and the animal rolls, the noose can twist and tighten, the quick release does not work and the noose continues to get tighter. (J213.4.w2)

  • Commercially-available snares may include a swivel mechanism to reduce the risk of suffocation if the animal twists, and a quick-release mechanism.

(B10.6.w44, B214.2.2.2.w12, J213.4.w2, P1.1976.w4)

Squeeze cages
  • A squeeze cage has one moveable wall, allowing the animal in the cage to be compressed against the opposite wall. (J213.4.w2, P1.1976.w4)

  • Ideally, a squeeze cage should be located permanently in the enclosure such that the animals travel through the cage to reach food, or to move between the indoor and outdoor enclosures. If restraint is required, trapping in the squeeze cage is then relatively simple. (B429.3.w3)

  • Squeeze cages are available in various sizes; the largest can contain large carnivores. (J213.4.w2)

    • Different sizes and designs of restraint cages are suitable for different species. (B10.6.w44)

    • Holding large carnivores using a squeeze cage requires some mechanical advantage for the holder. (J213.4.w2)

  • The animal may be housed in the squeeze cage during a treatment period or moved into the squeeze cage from other housing. (J213.4.w2)

  • Observation and injections can be given through the barred walls. (J213.4.w2, P1.1976.w4)

  • Some animals may be able to strike at the handler through the bars (depending on the bar spacing). (J213.4.w2)

(B10.6.w44, B214.2.2.2.w12 J213.4.w2, V.w5)

Bear Considerations

  • Heavy gloves or blankets may be used for cubs under 9 kg. (P62.9.w1)
  • Nets or snares (catch poles) may be useful for restraining small (young) bears. (B123.19.w19)
  • Squeeze cages are required for physical restraint of large bears. (B123.19.w19, B214.2.2.2.w12)
  • Cargo nets may be used for carrying sedated bears. (B123.19.w19, J1.35.w4, P20.1998.w8)

Lagomorph Consideration

Domestic rabbit
  • No special equipment should be needed for catching and handling a tame domestic rabbit.
  • For a particularly aggressive or nervous individual, a large towel may be useful for catching (towel dropped over the rabbit). (B601.2.w2, B540.12.w12, J213.2.w2)
  • A towel also can be used to provide additional restraint of a domestic rabbit. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
  • A cat restraint bag of an appropriate size can be used for domestic rabbit restraint. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
Wild lagomorphs
  • Nets may be useful when catching wild lagomorphs, and in restraint. (B64.22.w8)
  • Live traps such as Tomahawk Live Trap, Tomahawk, Wisconsin USA) can be used, in tunnels or in association with drift nets. nets 0.3 m high and 7.6 m long with associated traps; these were used successfully for catching Sylvilagus palustris - Marsh rabbit. For pieces of netting were generally used in a "X" shape, with a trap at the centre of the X and traps on each side of each piece of netting. Traps were set in the late afternoon or evening and checked in the morning. (J59.33.w1, J59.34.w4)
Ferret Consideration
  • Leather gloves are not recommended: they reduce dexterity (B602.2.w2, B652.3.w3), they are difficult to disinfect, and a ferret can bite through them anyway (B602.2.w2) unless they are very thick and stiff - which just makes handling even more difficult for the handler and uncomfortable and disturbing for the ferret. (B652.3.w3)
  • Protective gloves may be needed initially to get hold of a rare vicious ferret; they should be removed once the ferret is secure. (B631.18.w18)
  • A towel can be used if necessary both to place over a ferret in a travelling cage, in order to pick it up initially, (J29.6.w1)and to wrap a ferret which is difficult to handle, to provide safe, secure restraint. (B631.18.w18)
Bonobo Consideration
  • Squeeze cages appropriate for holding bonobos can be used and are available. These allow limited procedures to be carried out, such as injections and venipuncture. (B336.39.w39)

Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Catching of mammals may be carried out by hand, using a net, by driving or by trap. Alternatively, the animals may be anaesthetised by darting or using oral sedatives (see below). Different experienced animal keepers may vary in their preferred method for capture of a given species.
  • Catching mammals by hand is generally limited to tame animals, those in a small space, or severely injured or unconscious animals which are unable to escape.
  • Gloves may be worn to provide protection from scratches and from bites; it is important to remember that most carnivores and many primates can bite through heavy gloves, and that gloves provide only limited protection from crushing bites. Gloves also decrease dexterity and sensitivity.
  • Hoop nets;

    • These are useful for catching and restraining mammals up to about 20 kg (depending on the species). (J213.4.w2)

    • Nets made from opaque material may be preferable for some species. (V.w5)

    • The net should be deep enough so that it can be flipped back on itself or twisted to keep the animal in the net and provide control. (J213.4.w2)

    • Nets with a metal rim are preferable to those with a plastic rim, since the plastic rim is less rigid and some animals (particularly primates) may be able to lift it and escape. (J213.4.w2)

    • Particularly for smaller animals, the rim should be padded to reduce the risk of injury to the animal. (V.w5)

    • The net must be checked before each use since it may be damaged by animals chewing or kicking. (J213.4.w2)

    • Nets should be properly cleaned and sanitised after use to avoid cross-contamination of disease organisms. 

    • For species which run along walls, it may be useful to construct or modify a hoop net to give a square rim, reducing the ability of the animal to evade by ducking under a curved rim. (V.w5)

    • The catcher should anticipate where the animal is moving and bring the net into its path so that it enters the open net. (J213.4.w2)

    • As soon as the animal is in the net, the net is folded back on itself or twisted, so that the entrance is closed off. (V.w5)

    • In some circumstances, once the animal is in the net the open end is flattened against a solid surface (the floor/ground or a wall). Care must be taken (a) not to trap part of the animal's body against the hard surface; (b) to hold the net rim firmly to the surface so that the animal cannot lift it and escape. (V.w5)

  • Cargo net:

    • A cargo net may be thrown over an animal and used to entangle it. (V.w5)

  • Walk-towards net.

    • Mammals may be driven into a net such that they become tangled in it.

      • There is a risk of long-legged species such as deer and antelope breaking their legs while in a net.

  • When capture is required only to allow transport and physical restraint (e.g. for examination or injection) is not required, the animal may be caught in a box or crate.

  • Sleeping boxes for some species may be constructed to allow the normal opening to be closed over to catch the animal inside the sleeping box while it is sleeping.

  • Crate training:

    • For captive animals prior to an expected transport, the transport crate or cage may be placed in or attached to the animal's enclosure for some time before transportation. 

    • The animal is given daily access to the crate. (B23.5.w16, B429.7.w7, P1.1976.w4)

    • Crate training generally involves feeding the animal in the crate. (B23.5.w16)

      • The animal's food can be placed close to the crate, then just inside it and eventually at the back so that the animal enters the cage fully. (P1.1976.w4)

      • Further desensitisation to the crating process involves closing the crate/cage for a short time with the animal inside it, and gradually increasing this time, before the animal is shipped.

      • Once the animal is used to being shut into the crate, further acclimatisation may involve rocking or moving the crate. (B429.7.w7)

      • Acclimatisation of the animal to the crate may take as long as a month; the animal should not be shipped until this process is complete. (B23.5.w16)

      • If the actual crate to be used is not available prior to shipping, a crate which appears similar may be used or built for the purposes of acclimatisation. (B429.7.w7)

  • Trapping may be required to catch wild animals, such as animals for reintroduction or population reinforcement, nuisance animals for relocation, injured or sick animals for treatment, pest species for removal, and animals for research.

  • Trapping may also be used to catch animals in large enclosures.

  • Traps must be designed and baited correctly to trap the required species and minimise the risk of trapping other species.

  • Traps must be placed correctly (e.g. on runways used by the target species).

  • Traps must be checked frequently e.g. each morning for nocturnal species or each evening for diurnal species.

  • Traps used for small mammals must contain sufficient food and water to sustain the target species and other species which may be caught accidentally (e.g. traps for mice or voles must contain food to sustain shrews).

  • Traps must be designed correctly to minimise the risk of injury to the trapped animal, including the risk of it injuring itself while trying to escape

  • Hoofstock in particular may be moved from one place to another by directing them using handheld boards and/or opaque plastic sheeting forming a barrier leading to a chute or loading crate. 

    (B10.6.w44, J213.4.w2)

(B10.6.w44, B23.5.w16, B36.4.w4, B123, B429.7.w7, J213.4.w2, P1.1976.w4, V.w5)

Bear Considerations

Bears are large and powerful.

Cubs/juvenile bears

  • Wear heavy clothing, fully covering the arms and legs, when handling bears. (P62.9.w1)
  • Small cubs (under 9 kg) may be caught by hand, with either heavy gloves or thick blankets for protection from the cub. (P62.9.w1)
  • Small (young) bears may be caught using a net of an appropriate size; a heavy animal-handling net is preferable (withstands more wear and tear) but a good salmon net can be used. (P62.9.w1)
  • To about 18 kg, cubs can be restrained in a strong net, then injected (with chemical restraint drugs) using a pole syringe. (J417.20.w1)

Adult bears

  • Catching bears in the wild (except for e.g. small orphaned cubs) requires either a trap or darting (see below - Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint Issues for Handling Mammals section on this page).
  • Polar bears are usually caught by darting, generally from a helicopter. (B406.37.w37)
  • Juveniles weighing more than about 18 kg need to be chemically restrained for handling, as with adults. (J417.20.w1)
  • For more information on darting see: Treatment and Care - Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint

Culvert traps

  • Culvert traps can be used for catching bears. (B486.10.w10)
  • Culvert traps may be constructed from water culverts or lightweight aluminium, or from military missile carriers.
  • Once the bear is in a culvert trap it can be immobilised chemically, with the drugs delivered using a dart gun, blowpipe or pole syringe. (P84.1.w2, D249.w10)
    • Note: Bears which have been trapped and injected previously may be very wary of a pole syringe. (P84.1.w2)
    • Estimating the weight of a bear inside a dark trap can be difficult; it may be preferable to consider the bear as "small, medium, or large" and have standard doses for these categories. (P84.1.w2)
  • Disadvantages of culvert traps are their cost and the fact that the use of culvert traps is limited to areas accessible by road so that the trap can be transported to the site. (J59.8.w1)
  • Design of the trap:
    • The trap should be painted a pale colour to reduce heat absorption and should be maintained in good condition; traps made of steel need painting regularly to prevent rusting. (D249.w2)
    • The trap must be at least eight feet long so the bear has to completely enter the trap to reach the bait (not get it by stretching a paw inside), and to minimise the risk, if two bears enter, of the trap door crashing down on the second bear's back. (D249.w2)
    • The door should be designed to minimise the risk of injury to the bear and to allow release of the bear in a safe manner. (D249.w2)
    • Mesh must be checked to ensure that a trapped bear is unlikely to injure its teeth or claws while trying to escape. Diamond-shaped mesh should not be used as bears will get their claws caught and tear them out, and can also get teeth caught. It is important to try with a bear skull to see if a canine tooth can get caught anywhere, then modify the design to prevent this. (D249.w2)
    • The trap must be checked to ensure that a trapped bear would not be able to grip with its paws onto the door frame, mesh or any side door and thereby damage either its paws or the trap. Any sharp edges must be filed away and plates must be welded over any edge a bear could grasp. All welds must be double-checked on the inside and outside. The door must not be too heavy, if the edge of a sliding door is very narrow or sharp then a plate or lip should be welded onto the bottom of it. (D249.w2)
    • The designs should include sufficient holes to give light to see by for darting. It should be possible to get the blow gun, pistol or jabstick in through the end mesh or bars to reach the bear; there may be side doors, smaller than a bear's head and with doors overlapping the hole on all sides and locking securely, to allow access of a blowpipe etc. if necessary. (D249.w2)
    • There must be a sturdy locking device allowing the door to be locked securely up or down: when releasing the bear the door must lock securely up once it has opened to the required height. (D249.w2)
    • Preferably the door lock should have a plate covering it, preventing any other bear from unlocking it. (D249.w2)
  • Note: Culvert traps can be used to trap a bear to move it without handling it. (D249.w2)
  • If the bear is to be transported inside the culvert: (D249.w2)
    • The trap must fit onto a trailer or pick-up truck, or have an axel and wheels allowing it to be towed. If to be towed, then there needs to be a spare tyre, a strong trailer hitch with safety chain, wiring for lights and a jack on the tongue to make hooking up easier. (D249.w2)
    • Culvert traps used for transport should have air scoops on the side to improve air flow during transport. (D249.w2)
Foot snares (Aldrich snares)
  • Leg snares or Aldrich snares can be used to catch bears. (J59.8.w1)
  • Advantages of the Aldrich foot snare include that they cause considerably fewer serious injuries than do modified steel traps, and are more easily transportable than are culvert traps, so can be used in areas where vehicle access is not possible. (J59.8.w1) 
  • Design of the snare:
    • The snare consists of a spring-loaded throwing arm and a loop of steel cable with a one-way catch. 
    • The cable is anchored to the ground, a large log, or a tree; often there is a heavy spring as a shock absorber near to the anchor end of the cable. 
    • Rocks and logs are used to build a "cubby set" on a known bear trail, so that the bear has to either place its paw on the trigger or step off the trail.
      • Cubby sets, with bait in the back of the set, 0.6 m behind the snare, can be built after pre-baiting (depositing bait in different areas) has shown which areas are being used by bears (where the baits are being eaten). (J59.8.w1)
    • When the bear steps on the trigger the cable around the trigger is jerked up by the throwing arm, around the paw.
    • Due to the one-way catch the cable can only tighten.
    • The bear is held by the snare.
    • The snared bear can then be immobilised chemically, with the drugs delivered using a dart gun, a blowpipe or a pole syringe.


  • The number of snares set depends on whether they are being checked on foot or using a vehicle: more snares can be set if it is possible to travel between them by vehicle. (J59.8.w1)
  • Most Ursus americanus - American black bear caught in an Aldrich foot snare were observed to pull gradually and persistently against the snare, rather than to rush to the end of the cable then be suddenly jolted. (J59.8.w1)
  • In a set of 264 captures of Ursus americanus - American black bear, major injuries occurred in seven bears (3.7%), including fractures of the radius and/or ulna. Three bears were killed by another bear while caught in the snare. Minor injuries occurred in 155 bears and included cable cuts, swelling, damage to the teeth, cuts on the gums and lips and puncture wounds. All bears with minor or major injuries which were later recaptured were in good physical condition, including the two bears with fractures that were recaptured. (J59.8.w1)
  • Foot snares have been used to catch polar bears. (B406.37.w37)

Modified steel traps

  • There is a greater chance of serious injury to the bear if modified steel traps are used rather than Aldrich foot snares, and their use has been largely discontinued. (J59.8.w1)

Lagomorph Consideration

  • Always handle rabbits firmly but gently. (B611.4.w4, B614.5.w5)
  • Always support the rabbit's rump and lumbar spine, to minimise the risk of lumbar spinal injuries. (J15.29.w2)
  • Lagomorphs should be approached calmly and quietly; avoid sudden movements while approaching and handling lagomorphs. (B601.2.w2, J72.48.w1, J213.2.w2)
Domestic rabbit
  • Approach the cage slowly, talking quietly. (J15.29.w2, J72.48.w1)
    • For owners/carers: It may be useful to choose a cue word such as "lift" and always say this before lifting your rabbit; this will help your rabbit know that it is about to be picked up, which should reduce stress which can arise if the rabbit, a prey animal, is picked up unexpectedly. (D360)
  • Front-opening cages should be opened carefully to discourage the rabbit from taking a sudden leap forward out of the cage. For top-opening cages, draping a towel over the top of the cage as the top is lifted discourages the rabbit from making a sudden leap upwards. (J15.29.w2)
  • To lift a rabbit from a carrying container, hutch or the floor, it can be picked up by the scruff over the shoulders, with the other hand securely supporting the hind quarters. (B601.2.w2, B602.14.w14, J72.48.w1, J213.2.w2)
    • Additional leg restraint can be obtained by holding the hind legs at the same time as supporting under the rump. (B611.4.w4, B614.5.w5)
    • Additional head restraint can be provided by lying the ears backwards and holding them with the hand which is scruffing the rabbit. (B611.4.w4, B614.5.w5)
  • Or the rabbit may be lifted in a manner similar to a cat or small dog, with one hand round either side of the chest. (B600.3.w3)
  • Or, for docile and heavy rabbits (e.g. giant breed rabbits), place one hand/arm (depending on the size of rabbit) under the thorax just below the front legs, and the other are supporting under the rabbit's rump. (B601.2.w2, B602.14.w14)
    • This can be carried out from behind or from in front (generally preferable for rabbit owners), with the rabbit quickly placed against the chest or on a lap so it is fully supported. (B622.6.w6)
  • When removing a rabbit from a front-opening cage, with one hand grasping the scruff the other can grasp the hind legs above the hocks, keeping the index finger between the hocks, and supporting the rabbit's weight. (J15.29.w2)
  • For a very nervous or aggressive rabbit, drop a large towel over it and then tuck it into the towel to form a bundle, with the rabbit's head kept covered, in order to lift it and move it. (B600.3.w3, B540.12.w12,  J213.2.w2)
  • To replace a rabbit in a cage, hold the scruff and support the hind limbs, then lower the rabbit into the cage, facing away from you and making sure the hind feet touch the surface before the forelimbs do. (J213.2.w2)
    • Or facing towards you, but ensuring the hind feet are placed down first. (B602.14.w14)
  • Do not lift a rabbit by the ears. (B339.8.w8, B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, B602.14.w14, B604.2.w2)
Wild lagomorphs
  • Unless seriously injured or diseased, rabbits and hares may move very quickly and be difficult to catch.
  • Note: Being caught is a stressful experience for a wild lagomorph. (B284.10.w10)
  • Both nets and traps can be used to catch wild lagomorphs. (B284.10.w10)
  • A net may be used for initial capture. (B64.22.w8)
    • May be caught with a large net with a long handle. (B151)
  • A small mesh net reduces the risk of entanglement;
    • Maximum 6.5 cm mesh for adults, 4 cm mesh for juveniles has been suggested. (D25)
  • It is sometimes possible to transfix rabbits with a strong torch at night to assist in capture. (D25, J469.125.w1)
  • Restrain the animal as soon as it is caught in the net to minimise struggling.
  • Rabbits can be caught in live traps (e.g. placed in fencelines, but tend to become trap-shy and avoid the area after being caught too often. (J81.30.w1)
  • Sylvilagus bachmani riparius (Sylvilagus bachmani - Brush rabbit) were caught in traps; trap-related accidents included fighting when two rabbits were caught in the same trap, cervical vertebral fracture from collision within a trap, "and accidentally leaving a trap set while unattended." However the number of trap-related incidents was low. (B623.w1)
  • Hares have been caught by being chased into drive nets. (J40.35.w3)
  • Within a pen, lagomorphs which retreat into a refuge such as a wooden box or hutch can be caught by closing the entrance to the box/hutch. (B169.24.w24)
  • At the Breeding Centre for Endangered Arabian Wildlife, Sharjah, Arabian hares (Lepus capensis - Cape hare) are caught by hand under low shelters, by experienced personnel. Nets are sometimes used as for other small mammals. (V.w132)
  • For Brachylagus idahoensis - Pygmy rabbit in small enclosures with a double nest box (two boxes one inside the other, with hay lining between the boxes as insulation) and short entrance pipe, catching is carried out simply by placing a hand over the burrow opening then lifting out the inner box containing the rabbit, while plugging the hole into that box. (V.w134)
  • For Brachylagus idahoensis - Pygmy rabbit in large enclosures with lengths of drainage tubing 8 - 12 ft long as artificial burrows, a live trap is placed at one end, covered with a cloth, and a tennis ball or similar on the end of a wire probe is used to gently prod the rabbit along the burrow into the trap. If the rabbits have constructed their own extensive burrow system, they can be caught by placing a covered live trap at a burrow entrance and waiting for the rabbit to enter the trap. (V.w134)
  • Once Sylvilagus bachmani riparius (Sylvilagus bachmani - Brush rabbit) are caught in cage tarps they are transferred directly from the trap to a black cloth bag. (V.w137)
  • To catch wild Lepus americanus - Snowshoe hares in small cages, first one hand was placed over the hare's back, pressing it gently to the floor in a crouching position. This hand was then moved forwards until the fingers were around the neck and supporting the head. The hind legs were then gripped around the thighs with the other hand, and the hare removed from the cage and held in an extended position. (J533.15.w1)
  • To catch wild Ochotona princeps - American pika, Havahart cages and Victor Tender traps were used, baited with dried apple slices. (J23.14.w6, P1.1972.w2)
    • Note Newly-captured pikas were very susceptible to stress and were not disturbed or handled in the initial 3- 4 day adjustment period. (J23.14.w6, P1.1972.w2)
Ferret Consideration
  • Talk to the ferret before reaching towards it; stroke it and let it see you before trying to lift it. (B652.3.w3)
  • Keep all movements smooth, deliberate and calm. (B652.3.w3)
  • Unless a ferret is very nervous or scared, generally it will approach you. If the ferret is at ground level, you will  appear less threatening to it if you crouch down, making yourself smaller rather than standing over the ferret. (D398)
  • Tame ferrets can be picked up simply by placing a hand under the chest and lifting, as with a small cat. (B652.3.w3)
    • First extend a hand, open and palm up, allowing the ferret to sniff it. Once the ferret has sniffed and accepted the hand, place the hand under the body (between the front and back legs) from the side of the ferret, and lift, with your second hand under the hind quarters, cupping and supporting these. (D398)
    • Alternatively, place the hand so the forearm is supporting the body, with the thumb and index finger either side of the head and the middle and ring finger either side of one front leg. (D398)
    • Or, with the palm down and an open "U" shape between the thumb and forefinger, place he hand under the forelegs and lift, supporting the ferret's hind quarters with the other hand.  (D398)
  • Always make sure the ferret's weight is properly supported. (D398)
  • To catch an escaped ferret, a length of pipe is useful, leading into a box containing a treat food. (B652.3.w3)
  • In behavioural studies on feral/introduced ferret populations, live-traps are commonly used. (J360.44.w1)
Bonobo Consideration --

Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Restraint, Holding & Carrying

Methods used for holding and carrying mammals vary greatly depending on the mammal species involved. There are also some differences depending on whether the mammal is wild or tame and its individual temperament. Additionally, the experience of the handler(s) greatly affects handling and restraint. (J213.4.w2, V.w5)
  • Restraint should be the minimum required to safely and properly carry out the required procedure and maintain the individual animal's welfare. (J213.4.w2)
  • Thorough knowledge of the species being restrained increases the handler's ability to restrain the animal effectively and with minimum risk. (B10.6.w44)
  • It is important to consider the potential health risks both for the animal and handler(s).
  • The head, limbs and body of the animal must be properly restrained.
    • Most mammals can cause injury to people with their teeth and/or their feet (claws/hooves).

Physical restraint may be suitable for a management or veterinary procedure if: (J213.4.w2)

  • The procedure can be carried out safely for both the animal and handlers/operators;
  • It causes no or minimal pain (anaesthesia should be used for painful procedures - see below: Chemical Restraint)
  • Appropriate facilities, equipment and personnel are available to carry out the restraint.

Towels or similar cloths may be used for restraining small and young mammals for short procedures. (B10.6.w44)

(B10.6.w44, J213.4.w2, V.w5)

Bear Considerations

Physical restraint has very limited applicability in bears.
  • Immature bears may be hand-held or may be controlled using nets or pole snares. (B123.19.w19, B185.37.w37)
    • Gloves or snares may be used for handling immature bears. (B64.26.w5)
    • Use of a net to capture even for example a 20 - 25 kg carnivore requires excellent coordination of activity and good equipment, and involves some risk. (B429.3.w3)
    • The handler must wear heavy clothing which fully covers the arms and legs. (P62.9.w1)
    • Chemical restraint is required in order to carry out most procedures on juvenile bears. (P62.9.w1)
  • For mature bears, physical restraint requires the use of a squeeze cage. (B123.19.w19, B185.37.w37, B429.3.w3)
    • Bears can be trained by positive reinforcement to walk into a squeeze cage. 
    • A stronger squeeze cage is required for bears than for large cats (Felidae - Cats (Family)). (B123.19.w19, B185.37.w37)
    • Construction must minimise the risk of the bear harming itself, e.g. by biting at the cage. (B379.45.w45)
    • Squeeze cage construction must withstand the attentions of bears without being damaged or destroyed. (B379.45.w45)
    • A squeeze cage may be used also for handling small or immature bears. (B64.26.w5)
    • Restraint in a squeeze cage allows a basic physical examination but not a thorough examination; it also allows intramuscular injections to be given. (B16.9.w9, B185.37.w37, B429.3.w3)
    • Chemical restraint is required in order to carry out most procedures on adult bears. (P62.9.w1)
  • Adult bears are usually carried within a transport crate (see below -Transport Crates). (B123.19.w19)
  • An anaesthetised bear may be carried a short distance in a cargo net or a canvas sling. (B123.19.w19, V.w5)
  • Anaesthetised wild bears have been transported in a net slung under a helicopter.
    • There is some evidence that transport suspended in a net may compromise the bear's health; acute hypertension developed in Ursus maritimus - Polar bears in such nets as indicated by a significantly increased mean arterial pressure, and there was some arousal suggesting a stress response. These did not occur using a sling suspension, but there was a decrease in respiratory rate. One net-slung bear and one sling-suspended bear became hypoxaemic. It was suggested that modification of the net to reduce body compression, for example by placing the bear on a lightweight flat tray within the net, may be beneficial. (J1.35.w4, P20.1998.w8)

Lagomorph Consideration Tonic immobility / Hypnosis / Trancing. Click here for full page view with caption

Domestic rabbit
It is very important always to support the hindquarters properly when holding or carrying a rabbit. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, J15.29.w2, J213.2.w2)
  • On a non-slip surface, a rabbit can be held with one hand behind the rump and the other either holding the rabbit's scruff or cupped over its face and eyes. (B601.2.w2, J15.29.w2)
    • Keep mild downward pressure on the rabbit. (J15.29.w2)
    • Always provide a non-slip surface. (B602.14.w14)
  • A rabbit can be held in an upright position with one hand under the front legs and the other under the rump. To provide additional support for the spine, the rabbit should be held with its back against the chest of the holder. (B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
  • Additional restraint can be provided by wrapping the rabbit in a towel so that only the head is exposed: (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, J213.2.w2) place the rabbit on the towel so that its front feet are near the front edge in the middle of the towel and lift one side of the towel firmly up and over the rabbit, including over its forepaws, but leaving the head free. Lift the back edge of the towel up over the rabbit's rump, then wrap the other side of the towel over the rabbit as before and tuck it in ventrally on the other side of the rabbit. (B601.2.w2)
    • Or place it diagonally on the towel, and wrap, with the front corner then tucked in under the chin to ensure the front feet are restrained. (J213.2.w2)
  • A cat bag of an appropriate size can be used for rabbit restraint. (J213.2.w2)
  • Note: some domestic rabbits will scratch or bite. (B538.59.w59)
Holding in lateral recumbency
  • A quiet rabbit can often be placed in lateral recumbency. Once the rabbit is on a solid surface and held by scruff and rump support, cover the rabbit's head (e.g. with a towel), position the forearm of the hand holding the scuff along the rabbit's back and gently tip the rabbit onto its side. (B601.2.w2)
    • Care should be taken not to twist the rabbit's body while moving it from ventral to lateral recumbency. (J213.2.w2)
    • If the rabbit struggles, return it to ventral recumbency. (J213.2.w2)
    • Note: most rabbits need chemical restraint for lateral recumbency. (B601.2.w2)
Holding in dorsal recumbency
  • To place a rabbit in dorsal recumbency (e.g. for examination of the soles of the feet), reach over the animal with one hand and cup round the rabbit's rump, while holding the scruff with the other hand. Scoop up under the rump while lifting the rabbit by the scruff, turning it over so the rabbit lies in dorsal recumbency with its back supported along the forearm of the hand holding the scruff. The hind legs and lower back can then be restrained between the handler's upper arm and body, leaving one hand free. (J15.29.w2) 
Tonic immobility / "Trancing" / Freeze response / "hypnosis"
  • Trancing or tonic immobility are names given to a phenomenon by which a rabbit can be induced to remain immobile in dorsal recumbency for a period of time (up to 30 minutes or more in some cases), even with the application of aural stimuli (sharp noise such as clicking the fingers) or painful stimuli (e.g. ear pinch). (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, B614.5.w5, J15.29.w2, P3.2005b.w1)
    • To induce this state, the rabbit is placed in dorsal recumbency with neck flexed and hind legs extended, usually the eyes are covered (e.g. by bending the ears forwards) and the rabbit is gently stroked along its ventrum (from pectoral area to pubis) for a few minutes. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, B614.5.w5, J15.29.w2)
    • The righting reflex is lost, the muscles are relaxed (hypotonia of both extensor and flexor muscles), respiratory rate and heart rate are reduced, spinal reflexes are depressed, miosis occurs, blood pressure drops and responses to external stimuli are greatly reduced. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2)
      • Muscle tremors may be seen in the limbs. (P3.2005b.w1)
      • The pupils may dilate; there may be intermittent closure of the eyes. (P3.2005b.w1)
      • Sudden noises or painful stimuli can break the response. (B600.3.w3)
  • Not all rabbits respond to trancing. (J15.29.w2); as many as 25% may not respond. (B600.3.w3)
  • The period of time for which the trance state is invoked is variable. (J15.29.w2)
  • The state can be ended by returning the rabbit to sternal recumbency. (J15.29.w2)
  • Note: opinions vary regarding the psychological state of the rabbit, and whether or not this procedure should be used. (J15.29.w2)
    • It has been suggested that rabbits in this condition, rather than being relaxed and calm are in fact stressed and terrified. (B600.3.w3)
    • This response is seen in wild lagomorphs which have been caught by a predator. (B601.2.w2)
    • A study using behavioural measurements ("hiding, alertness, locomotion, investigation, grooming, resting and other") seen before and following tonic immobility, as well as physiological measurements (respiratory rate, heart rate, blood pressure, plasma cortisol levels) concluded that this procedure is stressful in rabbits. After tonic immobility, respiratory rate, heart rate and level of plasma cortisol were all significantly elevated (P < 0.046), and rabbits showed increased hiding and displacement activities following tonic immobility. (P3.2005b.w1)
    • Some release of endogenous opioids occurs. (B601.2.w2)
    • The immobility response has been used to allow e.g. nail clipping, mouth examination and taking of abdominal radiographs. (B600.3.w3) 
      • The use of tonic immobility for minor non-painful procedures, when necessary, may be preferable to other restraint methods including use of chemical restraint. (P3.2005b.w1, P116.2006.w1)
  • This procedure should NOT be used on rabbits with respiratory problems. (J15.29.w2)
  • This procedure should NOT be used to immobilize a rabbit for painful procedures; appropriate chemical restraint and analgesia should be used. (B600.3.w3, J15.29.w2)
  • Tonic immobility should not be used for owner-rabbit bonding as it is not likely to be either pleasurable or beneficial for the rabbit. (P3.2005b.w1)
  • For transport a short distance (e.g. from one room to the next room), a rabbit can be held with its head under the handler's arm in a "football carry", the same arm then supporting under the rabbit and supporting its hind legs; further support can be given by the other arm, which holds the rabbit's scruff. (B600.3.w3, B601.2.w2, B602.14.w14, B604.2.w2, J213.2.w2)
    • The fact that the face is covered, and the close physical contact, appears to be calming. (B600.3.w3)
    • For movement over more than a short distance, it is best to carry the rabbit inside a pet carrier, reducing the risk of injury if something startles the rabbit. (B601.2.w2, B604.2.w2)
  • Calm rabbits can be carried in front of their owner in a simple shoulder sling designed for human infants; they should be gradually accustomed to this method of transport. (J213.2.w2)
Wild lagomorphs
  • Never pick a rabbit or hare up by the ears.
  • Grasp the scruff of the neck and press the rabbit down on a flat, non-slippery surface initially (preferably until the animal relaxes). (B205)
  • Grasp the scruff with one hand and place the other under the hindquarters. (B284.10.w10)
  • Pick up with one hand over the ears and nape of the neck, holding the scruff or around shoulders, the other hand supporting the rump; bring the animal in so that it is supported against the handler's body.
    • It is vital to control and avoid struggling which may lead to spinal damage. (B151)
  • An alternative holding position is with one hand at the nape of the neck, the other supporting the abdomen, and with the feet pointing away from the handler to avoid scratching with the large claws. (B16.2.w2)
  • Rabbits and hares may scratch with their front claws and rake with their hind feet; they can give deep bites with their incisors. (D25, J204.47.w1, J213.9.w4)
  • Minimise handling times to reduce general stress and the risk of heat stress, particularly with pikas. (B64.22.w8)
  • Wild lagomorphs may be restrained within a net after capture. (B64.22.w8)
  • Generally, wild lagomorphs are quieter for handling (including examination) and carrying when within a cotton bag such as a pillowcase, or inside a dark bag. (B169.24.w24, J23.14.w6, P1.1972.w2, V.w123)
    • Struggling inside the bag on capture is minimised if the rabbit is held (still within the bag) against the body of the handler. (B169.24.w24)
    • For examination, ear tagging etc. the area of the body to be examined can be exposed as required. (V.w123, V.w137)
  • Do not try to use a closely-restraining device such as a cat bag on a wild lagomorph, as they will fight this. (B64.22.w8)
Notes on individual species

(B123, B151, B169.24.w24, B205, D25, J204.47.w1, J213.9.w4)

Ferret Consideration

Ferret held supported. Click here for full-page view with caption Ferret supported on arm. Click here for full-page view with caption

  • Speaking to domestic ferrets using a calm, quiet voice assists in taming and reassuring them. (B651.2.w2, B652.3.w3)
  • Pick the ferret up with a hand around the torso, the thumb and first finger going around the neck; use the other hand to support the rump, taking the weight of the ferret. (B651.2.w2)
  • A ferret can be held with one hand under the chest and the other under the hind quarters. (D398)
  • Make sure the ferret's body weight is properly supported at all times. (D398)
  • A ferret can be picked up and held with a hand around the shoulders, thumb and forefinger over one side and the other fingers over the other side. (B652.3.w3)
    • If there is a concern the ferret might bite, hold with the thumb and forefinger around the neck, firmly, but not pinching or squeezing. (B652.3.w3)
    • Support the hindquarters if the ferret is pregnant (or overweight). (B652.3.w3)
  • Relaxing a ferret:
    • If the ferret is held with one hand around the torso and swung gently backwards and forwards, while the other hand cups gently around the body and strokes the ferret (by gently pulling the ferret through the semi-closed hand) this generally calms the ferret. (B651.4.w4)
    • Hold the ferret with one hand around each shoulder/under the elbows, and use your thumbs to stroke over the ferret's knuckles. (B652.3.w3)
  • Tame ferrets can easily be held with one hand around the thorax behind the front legs, and the other supporting the hind legs. Avoid holding the hind legs too firmly, or the ferret will struggle. (B339.9.w9)
  • Often, ferrets will remain still if distracted by being offered liquid diet; this can be put on the abdomen and in general owners can e.g. clip the claws while the ferret licks the food off. (B339.9.w9)
  • Ferrets can be walked on a collar (or better, a harness) and a lead. When first putting the collar or harness on, provide distractions for the first 5-10 minutes, otherwise the ferret will simply try to remove the collar/harness. When the ferret is used to this, the lead can be attached and the ferret distracted again. Once it is used to both, short walks can be started. (B651.4.w4)
  • Warning signs that a ferret is fearful and may act aggressively are an arched back. fluffed tail, bared teeth and hissing. (B652.3.w3)
  • For information on handling of wild mustelids including feral ferrets, see: Catching and Handling of Stoats, Weasels etc.
  • If necessary, the ferret can be scruffed. (B339.9.w9) This provides more control over the ferret. (D398)
    • Adult ferrets may resent this hold. (B652.3.w3)
    • Scruffing then stroking the ferret may result in the ferret becoming relaxed. (J29.8.w2)
    • Scruffing can be useful to allow general physical examination and to enable e.g. claw clipping.(D398)
  • Carried out correctly, scruffing acts on the ferret as a mother ferret on a kit, resulting in the ferret going limp. (D398)
  • Scruffing can be used in behavioural training, to (by mimicking maternal dominance) subdue a ferret which is acting too aggressively. (D398)
  • Do not simply grab the scruff and lift the ferret. (D398)
Bonobo Consideration Physical restraint has very limited applicability in great apes.
  • Physical restraint of chimpanzees both is stressful for the animal and can be dangerous for the humans trying to restrain the animal. (D409.6.w6)
  • Squeeze cages can be used for holding bonobos; these enable limited veterinary procedures such as injections to be carried out. (B336.39.w39)
  • Note: Use of involuntary mechanical restraint of great apes should be avoided, although squeeze cage systems may be used together with husbandry training to reduce the stress felt by the ape. (B649.4.w4)
  • Except for infants and (in approriate circumstances) anaesthetised individuals, primates should be carried within crates or other appropriate containers. (D410)

Associated techniques linked from Wildpro

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Transport Crates

Boxes or crates for transport should be suitable in size and strength of construction for the species being transported.
  • Wooden crates are often used. For strong clawing or gnawing species, welded sheet metal lining is required to ensure that the occupant cannot claw its way out of the crate; for some species a mesh lining may be sufficient. (B23.5.w16, B441.8.w8, D277 - full text included)
  • Plastic pet-carriers can be modified to be suitable for some species such as prosimians. (B23.5.w16)
    • Doors must be modified to prevent accidental opening. This may be by wiring the doors closed, or by cutting threads into the metal bars so that they can be fitted with metal nuts screwing onto the outside portion of the rod. (B23.5.w16)
    • Ventilation holes/grills should be covered with burlap fixed in place to prevent the animal from reaching out of the container. (B23.5.w16)
  • Crates which prevent the animal from moving much or turning around may be useful for excitable species such as hoofstock and large felids; some other species may travel better in a larger crane which permits them to turn and lie down as well as stand. (B23.5.w16)
  • Crates must be strong enough to cope with handling and with knocks from other freight. (B23.5.w16, D277 - full text included)
  • Joints of wooden crates must be strong enough to cope with the efforts of the animal to damage them. (B23.5.w16)
  • Crates should be fitted with suitable lifting handles or gripper bars and, if they are heavy when occupied, hooks for slings and appropriate facilities for lifting using a fork-lift truck. (D277 - full text included)
  • Wood preservative or paint used on the container must not be toxic or a skin irritant. (D277 - full text included)
  • Inner surfaces of crates should be free of anything which is sharp or jagged and could injure the occupant, including projecting nails, screws, mesh ends etc. (D277 - full text included)
  • Padding or a false soft roof may be required with some species. (D277 - full text included)
    • Padding on the inside walls/roof must be attached to the crate such that the animal cannot remove and eat it during transport. (B23.5.w16)
  • All crates should have a leak-proof bottom and sufficient bedding to absorb excreta, or a fluid-proof tray under a grill, to allow excreta to fall away from the animal but still be contained. (B23.5.w16)
    • Usually the floor should be slatted (or mesh, for smaller species), over a removable, waterproof tray containing absorbable material (or absorbable material may be placed in with the animal). (D277 - full text included)
      • The design must be such that there is no chance of the occupant's feet becoming trapped in the slats. (D277 - full text included)
  • In general, only one animal is shipped per crate or per division within a crate. Exceptions include e.g. young littermates of a pair of non-human primates. Note: different countries may have different regulations regarding which animals can be shipped in a pair or group. It is important that if animals are being shipped cross-border the regulations of the receiving country, not just the sending country, are consulted in advance.
  • Most animals travel better and with less stress if any side which is made of mesh or bars is covered with e.g. burlap or another loose-weave mesh material. (D277 - full text included)
  • Provision of some soiled bedding from the animal's enclosure, or familiar perches or food/water bowls may help to make the crate more acceptable to the animal. (B23.5.w16)
    • If shipping between countries, check beforehand as importation of some materials, such as straw, may not be permitted. (D277 - full text included)
  • Note: If possible, the animal to be transported should be crate-trained in the month before shipment. See above: Catching. (B23.5.w16)
  • The door must be of sufficiently strong construction (similar to that of the rest of the crate) to withstand the animal, and with a secure fastening device which the occupant(s) cannot reach. (D277 - full text included)
    • It must not be possible for the door to be opened accidentally, either from the inside or the outside. (B23.5.w16)
  • Sliding doors are generally preferable to hinged doors; control of the entry to and exit from the crate by the occupant(s) is generally easier with sliding doors. (D277 - full text included)
  • Crates must have sufficient ventilation. (B23.5.w16, D277 - full text included)
    • Ventilation holes or grills must be designed such that sufficient air gets in but the animal cannot get any part of its body out of the container.
    • The crate design must prevent ventilation holes being blocked by other items placed next to the crate, e.g. by use of spacer bars on the outside of the crate.
    • Adequate ventilation should be considered in the light of the environmental conditions and the animal's production of ammonia-containing excreta.
    • Ventilation holes should be present in the walls of all sides, and possibly also the roof, even if the front of the crate is bars or mesh. (D277 - full text included)
    • Take care that ventilation holes are not obstructed by sheet or mesh lining of the crate.

    (B23.5.w16, D277 - full text included)

Feeding and watering
  • Crates must allow watering and feeding of the animal in transit safely (no risk of either personnel being harmed by the animal or the animal escaping). (B23.5.w16)
  • Food and water containers need to be non-toxic, have rounded edges, be attached to the inside of the crate and have their access ports clearly marked on the outside of the crate. (B23.5.w16)
    • Except in the case of very short journeys, provision must be made for feeding and watering: for longer journeys, food should be sent with the animal to allow feeding. (B23.5.w16)
Crate cleaning and maintenance
  • Crates should always be properly cleaned and disinfected after use. (B23.5.w16, D277 - full text included)
  • Before a crate is used to ship an animal, it must be inspected to check that:
    • It meets IATA regulations (if air travel is involved);
    • It has not been damaged in any way that reduces its structural integrity. (B23.5.w16)
    • No nails, screws etc. protrude into the animal holding area of the crate. (B23.5.w16)
    • Any modifications which have been made previously have not made it unsuitable for its intended use. (B23.5.w16)

Note: If animals are to be transported by air it is important to consult the International Animal Transport Association (IATA) regulations on crates (B56).

  • These vary with species. (B23.5.w16)
  • If the crate plus occupant is over 60 kg, the crate must have metal bracing for reinforcement, and forklift spacers 5 cm (2 inches) thick. (B23.5.w16)
  • Crates should have handles on the outside which allow manual lifting. (B23.5.w16)
  • There should be external spacer bars reaching to 15 cm (6 inches) from the main crate surface, to ensure the ventilation holes are not blocked by other objects. (B23.5.w16)

(B23.5.w16, B56, B441.8.w8, D277 - full text included)

Bear Considerations

A transport crate for bears must be very strong. Construction must be such as to prevent the bear from escaping by tearing the crate apart. (B123.19.w19)
  • A crate may be made bear-proof by lining it with galvanised sheeting. The sheets must be welded together. If a seam is left unwelded then the bear may get a claw under the seam and rip the sheet off. (B123.19.w19)
Pre-loading preparation
  • There must be sufficient space in the service area to manoeuvre and position a crate. (D247.2.w2) See: Accommodation Design for Mammals - Housing/Denning Facilities
  • The crate should be placed in the service passage in front of the cage, and secured there. (D247.10.w10)
  • The crate should be installed at least one week, preferably two weeks, before the intended transport date, to give the bear time to become familiar with the crate. (D247.10.w10)
  • Positive reinforcement, such as offering food in the crate, is beneficial to encourage habituation to the crate. (D247.10.w10)
  • It is recommended that Ursus maritimus - Polar bear should be crate trained before transportation i.e. that they should be gradually acclimatised to the transport container using positive reinforcement. (D315.1.w1)
  • When loading a conscious bear into a crate it is important to ensure that the crate is firmly secured to the cage opening using chains or ropes, so that if the bear runs into the crate at speed it is not dislodged from the opening providing an escape route. (B10.48.w43, B123.19.w19)
  • Food intake may be reduced for two to three days before transportation to decrease contamination of the crate with faeces. This will depend on the length of time the bear is to be in transit, and on veterinary, curatorial and nutritionist approval. (D315.1.w1)
Loading and movement
  • Preferably, positive reinforcement is used to load bears.
  • A bear may be directed into a crate by using a high-pressure water jet. (B123.19.w19)
  • Anaesthesia may be required in order to load a bear into a crate. (B123.19.w19)
    • Note: It is important that the bear in the crate has recovered from anaesthesia before transportation starts. (B407.w18, D247.10.w10)
    • Anthelmintic (deworming) treatment should be given before the bear is transported. (D247.10.w10)
  • Wild adult bears can be transported within a steel culvert trap on the back of a trailer, or fitted with an axel and wheels. (D249.w2, P62.9.w1)
    • A steel culvert trap provides a secure transportation container. (P62.9.w1)
    • If the culvert trap is to be towed, then there needs to be a spare tire, a strong trailer hitch with safety chain, wiring for lights and a jack on the tongue to make hooking up easier. (D249.w2)
    • Culvert traps used for transport should have air scoops on the side to improve air flow during transport. (D249.w2)
    • If a free-living bear is to be transported inside a culvert trap, the anaesthesia should be reversed before transportation starts. If the bear is still anaesthetised it may move towards the end of the culvert, its neck may become flexed, and it may lose airway patency and die. (D156.w2)
    • Note: there may be public curiosity and harassment of a bear being transported in this manner. (P62.9.w1)
During Transportation
  • Major risks to Ursus maritimus - Polar bear during transportation are overheating and dehydration. Bears should be monitored during transportation. (B185.37.w37)
  • Do not move bears in crates in hot weather due to the risk of overheating, which may be fatal. (D247.10.w10)
  • If transportation is to be prolonged (several days) and in cold weather, nesting materials must be provided. (D247.10.w10)
    • This is particularly important for tropical bear species. (D247.10.w10)
  • For journeys lasting more than one day, IATA guidelines for feeding should be followed. (D247.10.w10)
Release from the Crate
  • Ensure the crate is well secured to the doorway using chains/bolts so that there is zero risk of the bear pushing the crate to one side and exiting other than into the intended holding area. (B185.37.w37)
Crate size and construction: IATA Regulations

Specific requirements for a transport container for bears are set out in the IATA regulations. These include: (B441.8.w8)

  • A frame of solid wood or metal, lined with a suitable strong material such as plywood.
  • "For bears and other strong clawing animals, the container must be totally lined with sheet iron or other hard metal sheeting, with through ventilation holes." (B441.8.w8)
  • If the crate plus occupant weighs over 60 kg (132 lb), it must be reinforced with metal bracing and provided with forklift spacer bars.
  • The crate must be sufficiently high to allow the bear to stand upright (on all four feet) with its head extended, with at least 10 cm (four inches) clearance.
  • The crate must be sufficiently long to allow the bear to lie prone.
  • The crate must be large enough to allow the bear to turn around.
  • The crate must have adequate ventilation. To ensure this, there must be air inlets providing ventilation at all levels, particularly when the animal is lying prone. There must be ventilation holes, minimum about 2.5 cm (1 inch) diameter along the sides (one row near the top, one row low down, on each long side) and along the top (three rows along the length of the crate).
    • The ventilation holes may be screened with mesh on the outer surface of the crate.
  • The crate must have sliding or hinged entry and exit doors.
  • The front exit door must be made from strong iron bars, spaced close enough together to stop the occupant putting its legs between them, or steel welded mesh.
  • The doors must have secure fastening with screws or bolts, preventing accidental opening of the doors.
  • The front of the container must have a sliding light wooden shutter, either with 10 cm (four inch) ventilation holes or with slatting (7 cm i.e. 2.75 inch, and 3/47 inch between the slats) over the upper two thirds of the shutter. This provides protection for the handlers and privacy for the animal in the container.
  • The floor of the container must be constructed as a grill over a liquid-proof tray, so that the occupant's excreta can fall into the tray, or the floor must be liquid-proof and be covered with enough material to absorb the excreta.
  • There must be food and water containers at the front of the container, off the floor to prevent the containers becoming soiled, and accessible safely from the outside of the crate.


US APHIS Regulations

In the USA, requirements for transport crates set out by APHIS for Ursus maritimus - Polar bear are as follows: 

(a) Primary enclosures that are used to transport marine mammals other than cetaceans and sirenians must:
(1) Be constructed from materials of sufficient structural strength to contain the marine mammals;
(2) Be constructed from material that is durable, nontoxic, and cannot be chewed and/or swallowed;
(3) Be able to withstand the normal rigors of transportation;
(4) Have interiors that are free from any protrusions or hazardous openings that could be injurious to the marine mammals contained within;
(5) Be constructed so that no parts of the contained marine mammals are exposed to the outside of the enclosures in any way that may cause injury to the animals or to persons who are nearby or who handle the enclosures;
(6) Have openings that provide access into the enclosures and are secured with locking devices of a type that cannot be accidentally opened;
(7) Have such openings located in a manner that makes them easily accessible at all times for emergency removal and potential treatment of any live marine mammal contained within;
(8) Have air inlets at heights that will provide cross ventilation at all levels (particularly when the marine mammals are in a prone position), are located on all four sides of the enclosures, and cover not less than 20 percent of the total surface area of each side of the enclosures;
(9) Have projecting rims or other devices placed on any ends and sides of the enclosures that have ventilation openings so that there is a minimum air circulation space of 7.6 centimeters (3.0 inches) between the enclosures and any adjacent cargo or conveyance wall;
(10) Be constructed so as to provide sufficient air circulation space to maintain the temperature limits set forth in this subpart; and
(11) Be equipped with adequate handholds or other devices on the exterior of the enclosures to enable them to be lifted without unnecessary tilting and to ensure that the persons handling the enclosures will not come in contact with any marine mammal contained inside.

(b) [Not applicable to polar bears]

(c) Primary enclosures used to transport marine mammals must be large enough to assure that:
(1) In the case of pinnipeds, polar bears, and sea otters, each animal has sufficient space to turn about freely in a stance whereby all four feet or flippers are on the floor and the animal can sit in an upright position and lie in a natural position;

(d) Marine mammals transported in the same primary enclosure must be of the same species and maintained in compatible groups. Marine mammals that have not reached puberty may not be transported in the same primary enclosure with adult marine mammals other than their dams. Socially dependent animals (e.g., sibling, dam, and other members of a family group) must be allowed visual and olfactory contact whenever reasonable. 
Female marine mammals may not be transported in the same primary enclosure with any mature male marine mammals.
(e) Primary enclosures used to transport marine mammals as provided in this section must have solid bottoms to prevent leakage in shipment and must be cleaned and sanitized in a manner prescribed in Sec. 3.107 of this subpart, if previously used. Within the primary enclosures used to transport marine mammals, the animals will be maintained on sturdy, rigid, solid floors with adequate drainage.
(f) Primary enclosures used to transport marine mammals, except where such primary enclosures are permanently affixed in the animal cargo space of the primary conveyance, must be clearly marked on top (when present) and on at least one side, or on all sides whenever possible, with the words ``Live Animal'' or ``Wild Animal'' in letters not less than 2.5 centimeters (1 inch) in height, and with arrows or other markings to indicate the correct upright position of the container.
(g) Documents accompanying the shipment must be attached in an easily accessible manner to the outside of a primary enclosure that is part of such shipment or be in the possession of the shipping attendant.
(h) When a primary transport enclosure is permanently affixed within the animal cargo space of the primary conveyance so that the front opening is the only source of ventilation for such primary enclosure, the front opening must open directly to the outside or to an unobstructed aisle or passageway within the primary conveyance. Such front ventilation opening must be at least 90 percent of the total surface area of the front wall of the primary enclosure and covered with bars, wire mesh, or smooth expanded metal.


These regulations also state that: "A sufficient number of employees or attendants of the shipper or receiver of pinnipeds or polar bears being transported, in commerce, must provide for such pinnipeds and polar bears during periods of transport by:
(1) Keeping the animal cooled and/or warmed sufficiently to prevent overheating, hypothermia, or temperature related stress; and
(2) Calming the marine mammals to avoid struggling, thrashing, and other unnecessary activity that may cause overheating or physical trauma.


Additional information for Ursus maritimus - Polar bear

  • It is suggested that polar bears should be transported in a crate which is long enough to allow the bear to lie prone, tall enough to allow the bear to stand on all fours with its head extended, and wide enough to give at least four inches on either side of the standing bear, but without allowing the bear to turn around. (D315.1.w1)
  • Normally, feeding is not required during transportation, but they should be given water as required. The water container must be at the front of the crate, fixed off the crate floor to prevent soiling, and accessible for filling from outside if required in an emergency. (D315.1.w1)
  • While bedding (e.g. straw) may be provided for comfort, and to absorb excreta, if the shipment is international it is important to check regarding the acceptability of plant materials to the receiving country. (D315.1.w1)
  • Polar bears should be kept in an air temperature of 25-70 F during transport; if the weather is warmer, transport in an air-conditioned vehicle is needed. (D315.1.w1)
    • "Animals transported outside the specified temperature range must be accompanied by a certificate of acclimatization, signed by the attending veterinarian, that states the animal is acclimatized to the specific temperature range under which it is transported. This certificate must accompany the animal in transport." (D315.1.w1)
  • Minimise aversive stimuli by shipping in darkened containers. Keep away from people, loud equipment and other stressors, and if possible at airports, place in a quiet, temperature-controlled room. (D315.1.w1)
  • Ship individually.
  • Do not release the bear from the transport container under any circumstances. (D315.1.w1)
  • If transport will last longer than two hours, a transport plan is required, approved by the attending veterinarian. Either the veterinarian must accompany the bear or a qualified member of staff must do so and remain in communication with the veterinarian.
  • Transport should not exceed three days, with water offered daily; dry food can be offered also. Ice cubes may be used to provide water and as an additional means of cooling. (D315.1.w1)
  • On arrival, the crate must be securely anchored before the bear is released into its holding area. (D315.1.w1)

Lagomorph Consideration

Note that lagomorphs easily overheat, so it is important that carry boxes or crates are not left in full sunlight during transport. (B602.13.w13, J213.7.w3)
Domestic rabbit
  • Rabbits should be placed into a carrier for safe transport; they should be carried only for short distances. (B604.2.w2)
  • Rabbits should be transported in a pet carrier of an appropriate size. (J213.2.w2)
  • Solid-walled carriers provide the rabbit with better privacy than wire-walled carriers. (J15.29.w2)
  • If the carrier has a smooth plastic floor, place a tight-fitting non-slip mat inside to provide good footing for the rabbit. (J15.29.w2)
  • In a wire-floored cage, a folded towel provides a more comfortable surface. (J15.29.w2)
  • If the rabbit will be left unattended, the carrier should be secure both against escape of the rabbit and attack by a predator such as a cat, dog, fox or ferret. (J15.29.w2)
  • Note: there is a risk of a rabbit getting a foot stuck through wide mesh (including door mesh) or, when the rabbit is being removed from the carrier, between the edge of the open door and the carrier. (J15.29.w2)
  • Avoid travelling rabbits in high temperatures. (B622.6.w6)
  • Ensure there are both top and side ventilation holes; keep a 30 mm minimum space around the sides to allow air flow. (B622.6.w6)
Wild lagomorphs
  • Wild lagomorphs should be transported in small, dark, secure, well-ventilated containers. (B284.10.w10)

Lepus europaeus - Brown hare - Brown hare, Lepus timidus - Mountain hare, Oryctolagus cuniculus - European rabbit

  • Enclosed box, wooden or cardboard, with ventilation holes low down on the side.
  • Remain quieter if unable to see out.
  • Provide non-slip substrate e.g. a towel.
  • A top-opening box is preferred for ease of removal of the casualty.
  • Oryctolagus cuniculus - European rabbit only:
    • Wooden carrying boxes 45 cm x 30 cm x 30 cm high, with inner wire mesh lid to allow checking in transit, and ventilation holes (four holes, each 25 mm diameter). (B169.24.w24)
    • May be left in a securely-held cotton bag for short journeys. (B169.24.w24)
  • Note: Overheating during transport is less likely in a wooden box with air holes than in a sack. 
  • Transport kennels as used for pets can be used for transporting Arabian hares (Lepus capensis - Cape hare); they need to be kept in a quiet, dark place. (V.w132)
  • Wild Lepus americanus - Snowshoe hares were transported safely in wooden boxes 18 x 12 x 12 inches, with hay for bedding. (J533.15.w1)
  • Brachylagus idahoensis - Pygmy rabbit can be transported in a standard cardboard pet carrier. It is important to ensure that they do not overheat and are exposed to neither sun nor excessive wind during transportation; for example they can be transported at night to avoid excessive daytime temperatures. The box is lined with grass; a small quantity of pelleted food plus freshly cut forbs allows rabbits to eat during transport. (D373, V.w134)
  • Sylvilagus palustris - Marsh rabbit can be transported in 58 x 37 x 29 cm plastic pet carriers with a dense layer of grass as substrate. (J59.33.w1, J59.34.w4)


  • To minimise stress, newly captured wild Ochotona princeps - American pika were transported in a dark, closed container; some were left in the trap they were caught in, with this being wrapped in a blanked to keep it dark and secluded. (J23.14.w6, P1.1972.w2)
  • Ochotona princeps - American pika were transported in individual 10 x 20 x 10 cm boxes made from 0.95 cm thick plywood, ventilated, and with native vegetation as a substrate. (J331.89.w1)
  • Pikas are easily heat stressed. This can be avoided by transporting them late in the day, and by packing snow or ice around the transport boxes in warm weather. (J331.89.w1)
Ferret Consideration
  • Working ferrets are generally transported in wooden boxes with lift-up tops. (B631.18.w18)
    • The box should be treated with a safe wood preserver for increased longevity and protection against urine. (B651.8.w8)
  • For pet ferrets, cat carrying baskets or picnic baskets can be used. 
    • Preferably the basket should be top-opening rather then front-opening. (B631.18.w18)
    • Plastic cat baskets with a front opening door and a carrying handle are useful; they can be separated into two pieces for cleaning. (B651.8.w8)
  • Wire carriers can be covered with a towel or cloth; this may calm the ferret. (B631.18.w18)
  • Wicker baskets are harder to keep clean, can be draughty. (B651.8.w8), and are less secure. (D399)
  • Ensure that the box/cage/basket provides adequate ventilation. (B651.8.w8, D399)
  • If ferrets are used to being housed together then they may be transported together; otherwise they should be transported one to a cage. (B631.18.w18)
    • The size of the cage needs to be larger if two or three ferrets are to be transported together. A 48 x 33 x 28 cm transport kennel is adequate for one ferret or possibly two small ferrets; a 58 x 37 x 32 cm carrier will take two or three ferrets. (D399)
    • Even when ferrets are housed together usually only two or three should be transported per carrier, to avoid overcrowding and increased problems if the container becomes contaminated by urine, faeces or drinking water. (D399)
    • For longer journeys, a 60 x 40 x 38 cm carrier is better; the extra room gives additional space for bedding; a small hammock may be fitted inside if the carrier is modified slightly, and it allows room for food and water. (D399)
  • Line the box/cage with paper (ideal) or with hay or straw. (B631.18.w18)
  • Provide bedding. (D399)
  • A water bottle should be attached. (D399)
  • For long journeys a water bowl can be attached inside the cage. (B631.18.w18)
Bonobo Consideration Transport crates should always be used for moving primates, with the exception of infants and anaesthetised individuals, as appropriate. (D410)

IATA requirements are as follows: (B441.8.w8)

For adult chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans and baboons:

  • The crate must be constructed with a framework of welded metal liver with smooth wood or similar material, minimum thickness 12 mm (1/2 inch).
  • The front end of the crate must be constructed of strong iron bars or steel welded mesh; bars must be spaced such that the animal is unable to push its forearms between the bars.
  • Over the front opening there must be wooden slotted shutters with adequate ventilation holes/slots, about 7.5 cm (three inches) away from the bars or steel weld mesh. This is both to give privacy to the occupant and for the safety of personnel handling the crate.
  • The rear of the crate must be a sliding door, the same materials as the main container and secured to prevent accidental opening.
  • The floor must be a grille over a liquid-proof tray such that the occupant's excreta can fall into the tray/ Alternatively, the floor must be liquid-proof and covered with sufficient material that the occupant's excreta will be absorbed.
  • There must be sufficient air inlets to ensure adequate ventilation at all levels, and particularly when the occupant is prone. Multiple rows of ventilation holes of about 2.5 cm diameter (one inch) must be provided on the sides and the top of the crate and on the rear sliding door; the ventilation holes may be covered with mesh on the outside.
  • The size of the crate must be sufficient to allow the occupant to stand upright with the head  extended, and the length must be sufficien to allow the occupant to lie down prone. The dimensions also must either allow the occupant to turn around freely or must prevent it from turning at all.
  • There must be a water container, above floor level, accessible from outside the crate, for emergency use.
  • Each crate must contain one occupant, or compatible individuals can be shipped together "when it is probabe they will not harm each other during shipment." A crate can be divided using partitions such as metal grills to provide separate compartment, so long as the provisions for each individual still apply.
  • If the crate plus occupant weighs more than 60 kg, there must be forklift spacer bars, and there must be metal bracing reinforcing the container.

For young/subadult chimpanzees, gorillas, orang-utans, baboons and gibbons:

  • Suitable construction materials are metal, wood, wire mesh and light material such as muslin.
  • The crate front must be of ether welded wire mesh (preferred) or chain link, with mesh size of about 2.5 cm (one inch) which must be attached to the main structure of the crate with a steel strip, not with staples. Behind this there must be steel tubes, 2 cm (2/5 inch) bore, spaced 7.5 cm (three inches) apart centre to centre, and sunk about 2.5 cm (one inch) into the top and bottom of the container.
  • On the sides, back and top of the container there must be ventilation openings, at least 2.5 cm (one inch) diameter and covered in mesh.
  • At the back of the crate there must be a full-height access door. This door must be secured adequately, using a tamper-proof locking device. Across the whole width of the crate, after the access slide has been screwed into place, a central batton must be placed.
  • There must be an escape-proof access flap through which water and food can be provided.
  • [depending on species, there must also be resting shelves provided]
  • Over the front there must be a panel, two thirds solid, one third wire mesh including two 10 cm (four inch) ventilation openings in the upper part of the panel.
  • The floor of the crate must be solid and leak-proof, and covered with a suitable absorbent bedding material (e.g. wood chips) in a layer 10-15 cm (4-6 inches) deep.
  • Usually, each individual should be shipped individually, unless used to cohabiting. The space per individual must be at least 0.5 m3 (17.63 ft3) in containers for multiple individuals.


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Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint Issues for Handling Mammals

Chemical restraint may be required to capture an animal, for example in a large area, or free-range, or to allow a thorough physical examination, taking of samples and/or administration of treatment.

Drugs used for chemical restraint may be hand-injected into a physically restrained animal (e.g. in a squeeze cage or net), injected using a pole syringe in an animal which is unable to retreat out of reach of the pole, given by remote injection (darting) or administered in food or water. (B438.24.w24) 

Advantages of chemical restraint include reduced risks of:

  • Physical injury to the animal;
  • Exhaustion;
  • Capture myopathy;
  • Heat stress due to physical exertion;
  • Psychological stress;
  • Human injury.

Risks associated with chemical restraint include:

  • Stress - physiological stresses associated with anaesthesia;
  • Physical injury from the dart when using remote injection (minimised by using the correct dart and darting pressure);
  • Self-injury during induction or recovery (reduced by minimising access to hazards);
  • Danger from conspecifics (sedated animals may send the wrong behavioural signals to conspecifics);
  • Increased vulnerability to predators (this should not be applicable in captive animals);
  • Inappropriate drug choice;
  • Excessive dose (wrongly calculated, wrong weight estimation or related to debility of the animal);
  • Insufficient dose (wrongly calculated, wrong weight estimation or related to excitement of the animal);
  • Hyperthermia (due to drug-related decreased thermoregulatory ability and environmental conditions);
  • Hypothermia (due to drug-related decreased thermoregulatory ability and environmental conditions);
  • Kidney problems (particularly in dehydrated individuals);
  • Human safety related to drugs (minimised by safe drug choice and good drug and equipment handling techniques).

(B10.6.w44, B123.4.w4, B123.6.w6, B345.2.w2, B345.3.w3, V.w5)

Bear Considerations

  • Chemical restraint is required for handling, examining and treating adult bears. (B16.9.w9, B64.26.w5, B429.3.w3)
  • Injectable agents may be given following restraint in a squeeze cage, or using a pole syringe or by darting. (B16.9.w9)
    • If a door is to be partially opened for darting, a mechanism should be in place to prevent a bear from further opening the door. This could be a stout chain, or for sliding/guillotine doors a rod laced to prevent further opening. (B123.19.w19)
  • Carfentanil, given orally for transmucosal absorption, has been used in several bear species in captivity. This can remove the need for darting, or allow darting with minimal stress for the bear. (B336.51.w51, J1.31.w11, P2.1999.w2)

Further information is provided in: Treatment and Care - Anaesthesia and Chemical Restraint

Lagomorph Consideration

Chemical restraint is appropriate for handling particularly aggressive, nervous or stressed rabbits. (B601.2.w2)

Chemical restraint may be required in order to place a rabbit in lateral recumbency, to allow proper examination inside the mouth, or to ensure it remains still during a veterinary procedure such as venipuncture. (B601.2.w2)


  • If a painful procedure is to be carried out, appropriate local or systemic analgesia should be used. The rabbit should not simply be held still or "tranced". (B601.2.w2)
Ferret Consideration Chemical restraint is not needed for physical examination of tame ferrets but may be required for veterinary procedures, depending on the length of the procedure to be performed, level of discomfort involved, and the reactions of the individual ferret. (B232.17.w17, J213.2.w7)
  • Poorly socialised and rescued ferrets (particularly if they have been living feral) are more likely to need chemical restraint.
  • Severely depressed ferrets may not need chemical restraint (e.g. catheters can be placed without restraint in a moribund ferret). (P120.2006.w6)

Chemical restraint is more likely to be needed for longer procedures, as ferrets (like cats) often object to being held still. 

  • As an alternative to chemical restraint for some procedures, the ferret may be distracted with a treat food in liquid or paste form). (B232.17.w17 B660.31.w31)

Chemical restraint is appropriate for procedures in which it is important that the ferret remains immobile (e.g. radiography) (J29.10.w1) or where it might injure itself moving during the procedure (e.g. Cystocentesis of Ferrets). (B232.17.w17)

  • Chemical restraint with local and/or systemic analgesia is appropriate for painful procedures.
Bonobo Consideration
  • Physical restraint and sedation are of limited use in great apes due to their size, strength, large teeth and potential for causing injury to humans during the procedure. (B538.33.w33)
  • Sedation may be used prior to anaesthesia or transport. (B336.39.w39)
  • It is preferable to use training (see section below - Husbandry Training) so that great apes will present a large muscle mass for hand injection for anaesthesia, avoiding the need for darting. (B336.39.w39)
  • Care is needed when primates are recovering from anaesthesia, to minimise the risk of the primate grabbing or biting people. (B649.4.w4)
  • Primates recovering from anaesthesia should preferably be placed in a small enclosure, one in which they cannot climb, to avoid falls. (B649.4.w4)

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Husbandry Training

Many aspects of good husbandry, such as cleaning of enclosures, providing environmental enrichment in enclosures, and general enclosure maintenance require that animals are moved into a given part of their enclosure. It is preferable that animals are moved by positive cooperation with the keeper.
Positive reinforcement training
  • Positive reinforcement training is based on giving pleasurable rewards for the desired behavioural response. It relies on the voluntary cooperation of the animal being trained, and it gives the animal choice: the animal chooses to cooperate (or not), rather than being made to comply with a procedure. (J4.223.w2, N19.1.w3, P20.1998.w11, )
  • The training allows desensitisation of the animal to frightening and even painful events, thereby reducing the stress associated with such events. (P20.1998.w11)
  • Training uses a "target" or goal behaviour. This must be selected and clearly defined. 
    • The overall aim is selected, then a series of small steps is used to progress to the behavioural goal.
    • Correct responses (approximations towards the goal) are reinforced, while incorrect responses are ignored.


  • Positive reinforcement training increases the opportunity for general health monitoring, preventative medicine and reproductive monitoring. It may be used to allow physical examination, specimen collection and even treatment of animals without the need for physical or chemical restraint. (B439.16.w16, J4.223.w2, N19.1.w3, P3.2006b.w2, P20.1998.w11)
    • An extremely useful application of training is to condition animals to voluntarily accept injections, thereby eliminating the need for either physical restraint or remote injection systems. (N19.1.w3, P20.1998.w11)
    • Training for injections can eliminate the excitement, stress and increased risks of anaesthesia which may be associated with darting, particularly in intelligent species. (N19.1.w3, P3.2006b.w2)
  • It may be possible to carry out veterinary procedures without separating the animal from its social group, reducing disruption to the whole group. (P20.1998.w11)
  • Training animals to enter a holding area or den is advantageous for daily checking of the animals and provision of veterinary treatment, as well as allowing keepers to enter the enclosures of dangerous animals for cleaning and for provision of environmental enrichment (e.g. scattering or hiding food).
  • Training can be used to modify problematic and potentially dangerous behaviours. For example, an animal can be taught to give its keeper objects which fall into its enclosure, rather than eating them.
  • Positive reinforcement training can be used to address aggression in social groups, for example by simultaneously reinforcing dominant individuals for allowing subordinate individuals to be fed or receive attention, and reinforcing the subordinate individuals for being "brave" and feeding or accepting attention while in the presence of the dominant individuals. (J4.223.w2, N19.1.w3)
  • Note: Training sessions also give animals choice. (N19.1.w3, P82.7.w1)

(B105.20.w5, B429.8.w8, B439.16.w16, J4.223.w2, N19.1.w3, P3.2006b.w2, P20.1998.w11, P82.7.w1)

Bear Considerations

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Old-style bear husbandry relied on bears being fed their main meal in indoor dens in the evening so they could be locked in for the night. Catching bears for veterinary care or movement to another enclosure or facility also relied on trapping the bear in an indoor area. Modern husbandry emphasises positive reinforcement.
  • Husbandry training for bears should involve: (D247.8.w8)
    • Positive reinforcement;
    • Gradual changes, one step at a time;
    • Avoidance of negative associations;
    • Patience;
    • Cooperation, not competition with the bear;
    • Clear signals; (P82.7.w1)
    • Avoiding tricking or deceiving: this may produce a short-term gain but is detrimental in the longer term, as bears will remember the deception. (D247.8.w8)
    • Remembering that each bear is an individual and should be treated as an individual, allowing for variation and not expecting all bears to act alike. 

    (D247.8.w8, P82.7.w1)

  • In large enclosures, it is important that bears respond to a signal so that they can be visually checked daily to ensure they are healthy. (D247.8.w8)
    • Bears should be rewarded for responding to this signal, by being given a treat. (D247.8.w8)
  • Positive reinforcement training to enter a holding area can ensure that bears can be shifted into this area when required for example to clean an enclosure or replenish enrichment in the enclosure, and that this behaviour can be accomplished if needed at a different time than usual. (N19.6.w3)
  • Protected contact training and operant conditioning can assist with veterinary examinations and procedures. (D315.2.w2) 
  • Positive reinforcement training has been used in bears for procedures including:
    • Routine movements between cages;
    • Crate training;
    • Weighing;
    • Measuring heart rate;
    • Examination and cleaning of the mouth;
    • Examination and basic treatment of feet (e.g. claw trimming);
    • Reproductive cycle monitoring;
    • Collection of semen samples;
    • Application of topical medication (e.g. using a spray).
    • Cleaning wounds;
    • Injections;
    • Venipuncture.

    (N19.6.w3, N19.15.w2, P82.7.w1, W643.June06.w4)

To avoid unpleasant experiences which may discourage wanted behaviour:

  • Avoid situations in which a bear is held in close confines with another more dominant individual. (D247.8.w8)
  • Avoid giving a large meal in a den (or other area) if it is desired that the bear(s) will be brought back out of the area after just a short time; since the bear(s) may be more inclined to stay where the food is. (D247.8.w8)
  • If holding indoors for a long period or overnight is required (e.g. while major maintenance is carried out on the outdoor enclosure), consider giving a large and complex meal, such that the bears take some time to finish the food and are then willing to "sleep it off". (D247.8.w8)
  • Encourage dispersal when bears are let out of the dens, by providing a scatter-feed some distance from the doors, thereby decreasing the risk of encounters between bears at the exit from the dens. (D247.8.w8)

Lagomorph Consideration

Domestic rabbit
  • Rabbits can be trained, using food rewards, to return to their hutch at a specified time. (B600.2.w2, B624)
  • Rabbits can also be trained to "Come", "Hop" (over a small jump) and "Sit up" on their hind legs. (B624, J29.16.w8)
  • Rabbits should always be trained with positive reinforcement. (J29.16.w8)
  • Clicker-training can be used with rabbits. (J29.16.w8, N34.Summer07.w3)
  • Punishment should not be used in training; it can cause fear responses. (J29.16.w8)
Wild lagomorphs
Simple training can make husbandry easier.
  • At Basle Zoo, hares were kept and bred in pens with two sides, used alternately; the bottom of the wall between the sides could be lifted and the hares would go under to the other side, allowing the first side to be cleaned out without the hares panicking. (B525.11.w11)
Ferret Consideration
  • Regular handling is essential if a ferret is to be well socialised. (J213.4.w7)
  • Ferrets can be taught not to nip or bite humans by loudly saying "No!", or by briefly scruffing the ferret. (J213.4.w7)
  • If a ferret repeated attempts to gain its owner's attention by nipping, appropriate distractions are toys, treats or play. (J213.4.w7)
Bonobo Consideration Positive reinforcement training can enable a variety of procedures to be carried out, such as physical examination, injections, venipuncture, ultrasound examination and tuberculin testing. Such training of great apes requires well-trained personnel, thorough understanding of great ape behaviour and appropriate facilities (B336.39.w39)

Note: Experiences at Milwaukee County Zoo, Wisconsin, USA have shown that a well-developed programme of positive reinforcement training can not only allow many husbandry and veterinary procedures to be carried out without either physical or chemical restraint but can greatly improve the relationship between keepers and bonobos, reduce stress levels, improve social interactions within the bonobo group and provide "a cascade of other benefits." (P1.2002.w10) 

Bonobos at Milwaukee County Zoo, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA, have been trained for a variety of medical procedures using positive reinforcement. Many of these take place with the bonobo in an overhead chute - a position relative to humans which increases the bonobos' confidence and therefore their cooperation. (P129.1.w2)

  • Note: the chute used for training, which connects two areas used for play, is never used for aversive procedures such as darting. (P1.2002.w10, P129.1.w3)
  • Bonobos are trained to lie in the overhead chute either in sternal or dorsal recumbency and allow palpation of different areas of the body (physical examination) including of lymph nodes and mammary glands, evaluation of the teeth, eyes and ears,  thoracic auscultation, swabbing of the throat, taking of rectal temperatures and rectal swabs. (P1.2002.w, P129.1.w2, P129.1.w3)
  • Bonobos were trained, using positive reinforcement, to lie in sternal recumbency in an overhead chute with their arms extended over their head, and the ultrasonographer stood underneath and introduced the ultrasound probe through the 2 x 2 inch (5 x 5 cm) mesh of the bottom of the chute to contact the bonobo's abdomen. Safety of the operator was assured by a zookeeper constantly reinforcing the bonobo to stay lying and gripping the mesh with both hands; verbal praise, gentle touch and food were all used for positive reinforcement. If the keeper considered that the bonobo was becoming tired or uncomfortable, the session was ended (always on a positive note). (J54.30.w1)
    • Because of the training method used, participation by the bonobo was voluntary; she could always take a break from the examination or terminate the session simply by moving away. (J54.30.w1)
    • Bonobos which had previously been monitored in this manner during a pregnancy did not require retraining before monitoring during a subsequent pregnancy. (J54.30.w1)
  • Bonobos have been trained for cardiac ultrasound examination. For females previously trained for uterine ultrasound, this simply required them to accept the probe on the chest rather than the abdomen. Males (with more barrel-shaped chests) have to be trained to lie sternally then twist the left hip down while extending the left arm, thereby spreading the ribs. (P1.2002.w10, P129.1.w2)
  • A bonobo with a severe heart condition was trained to permit electrocardiogram pads to be placed on his chest. (P129.1.w2)
  • Bonobos have been trained to place an arm into a PVC "blood sleeve", six inches (15 cm) in diameter, which is attached to the front of the bonobos' holding area. This allows not only blood sampling and injections, but also tuberculin testing and blood pressure measurement using a cuff. It has been used to allow physical therapy on a bonobo's wrist and thumb, and for radiography of arms and legs without chemical restraint. (P1.2002.w10, P129.1.w2, P129.1.w3)
  • Training has permitted monitoring of ovulation, and artificial insemination. (P1.2002.w10)
  • Positive reinforcement training has facilitated individual medical treatment during serious illness. Additionally, by increasing trust between keepers and bonobos, it has enabled temporary removal of infants for medical care. (P1.2002.w10)

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Authors & Referees


Debra Bourne MA VetMB PhD MRCVS (V.w5)


Liz Carter BSc MSC (V.w144); Neil Dorman (V.w104); Mike Jordan (V.w30);  Chris Lasher (V.w110)

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