Efficacy of lethal-trap devices to improve the welfare of trapped wild dogs.
Context. Wildlife and pest managers and stakeholders should constantly aim to improve animal-welfare outcomes when foot-hold trapping pest animals. To minimise stress and trauma to trapped animals, traps should be checked at least once every 24h, normally as soon after sunrise as possible. If distance, time, environmental or geographical constraints prevent this, toxins such as strychnine can be fitted to trap jaws to induce euthanasia. However, strychnine is considered to have undesirable animal-welfare outcomes because animals are conscious while clinical signs of intoxication are present. A toxin considered more humane, para-aminopropiophenone (PAPP), is available to induce euthanasia in trapped animals but is untested for presentation and efficacy. Aim. We tested the efficacy of two types of lethal trap device (LTD's), each using a paste formulation of PAPP as the active toxin to replace the use of strychnine on foot-hold jaw traps. Methods. Elastomer LTDs and PAPP-cloths were fitted to jaw traps set to capture wild dogs (Canis familiaris). Camera-trap data was used to record animal behaviours after capture and to determine the efficacy of both modalities. Key results. Every trapped wild dog (n=117) gnawed at the elastomer LTD's or PAPP-cloth attached to the trap jaws that restrained them; one dog failed to liberate the toxin. From the dogs caught in the main trial (n=56), a mortality rate of 84% and 87% was reported respectively. The mean time from trap-to-death for elastomer LTDs was 64 min and 68 min for PAPP-cloths. Conclusions. Elastomer LTDs and PAPP cloths combined caused the mortality of 85% of captured dogs. This efficacy could be improved by adopting the recommendations discussed in the present study for deploying PAPP-based LTDs during trap deployment. Implications. PAPP-based LTDs offer an alternative option to the use of strychnine and improve the welfare outcomes for trapped predators, especially where traps are not checked within the recommended 24-h period.