Animal Health and Welfare

Risk assessment concerning the welfare of certain free-ranging wild mammals and birds subjected to marking


Report no: 2013: 26

Published: 17.06.2013

Main message:

Norwegian Scientific Committee for Food Safety (VKM) has conducted a risk assessment concerning impaired animal welfare related to marking of free-ranging wild mammals and birds.

Wild animals are adapted for a life in the free, and hazards that can threaten their life, health or welfare are normal parts of their existence.

All free-living animals are subjected to natural challenges such as diseases, starvation or predation or man-made hazards such as hunting, traffic, oil (and other) pollution or destruction of habitat.

The overall welfare risk of populations from capture and marking are, in comparison, limited or negligible. The focus of this assessment is anyhow on the welfare risks of individual animals created by the need to catch and mark them in a scientific or management context.

In general, any capture or marking of wild animals will interfere with the normal behaviour of the animal and pose a risk to its welfare. The need for science-based national or international regulation of this practice is relevant.

The capture and handling procedures that are commonly used are thoroughly described and discussed. Some general conclusions are made:

  • Capture techniques should be effective and not involve unnecessary periods of chasing
        or entrapment.
  • The immobilization techniques used should not cause unnecessary pain or stress.
  • Chemical restraint can be used when it is appropriate and safe.
  • Immobilization should only be performed by properly trained personnel.
  • Following immobilization, the animals should be monitored until they are able to
        behave normally.

The marking methods that are commonly used for different wild species are thoroughly described and discussed. Some general conclusions are made:

  • It is not possible to mark an animal with a device that has no implications to its welfare, either at the time-point of marking or during the period that the mark is being carried by the animal. However, many of the commonly used marking techniques have negligible negative effects on most species.
  • The weight, shape and size of the marking device should be adapted to the animal that carries it, and it should not interfere with normal behaviour, health or welfare.
  • If the device does interfere to some extent with the normal behaviour, health or welfare of the individual, the device should be removed as soon as possible, either by a drop off mechanism or by recapture and removal of device.


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