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Open Access Publications from the University of California

A review of chemical and particle marking agents used for studying vertebrate pests


A wide variety of chemicals including dyes, stains, inks, drugs, fluorescent and non-fluorescent particles, and radioisotopes have been used as markers to identify free-ranging mammals and birds. Markers are useful for studying: (1) home ranges, migration patterns, and population dynamics; (2) bait acceptance, palatability, and exposure of target animals via different baiting techniques for delivering toxicants, chemosterilants, or vaccines; and (3) exposure of non-target animals to control techniques. Five general classes of markers with specific marking capabilities are available for use: (1) dyes, stains, and inks that may be either fluorescent or non-fluorescent which stain the gastro-intestinal tract and its contents, urine, fecal droppings, or hair; (2) inert particles, either fluorescent or non-fluorescent, that can be detected in the gastro-intestinal tract and feces, and can be applied with an adhesive spray to birds' feathers; (3) tetracyclines that can be detected as a yellow fluorescence in bones and teeth; (4) blood markers that can be detected in the plasma or sera (e.g., iophenoxic acid or mirex); and (5) radioisotopes that have various patterns of tissue distribution depending upon the isotope used.

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