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  1. Cooke, Steven (Ed.)
    Abstract Wild animals brought into captivity frequently experience chronic stress and typically need a period of time to adjust to the conditions of captivity (restraint, artificial lighting, altered diet, human presence, etc.), to which they may never fully acclimate. Changes in mass, the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis and heart rate parameters have been observed over the first week in newly captive house sparrows (Passer domesticus). In this study, we tested the effects of two drugs, diazepam and mitotane, in preventing the chronic stress symptoms caused by captivity, compared with oil-injected control animals. Diazepam is an anxiolytic that is widely prescribed in humansmore »and other animals and has been shown in some cases to reduce physiological stress. Mitotane is an agent that causes chemical adrenalectomy, reducing the body’s capacity to produce glucocorticoid hormones. Our mitotane treatment did not cause the expected change in corticosterone concentrations. Baseline corticosterone was higher after a week in captivity regardless of the treatment group, while stress-induced corticosterone did not significantly increase above baseline after a week in captivity in any treatment group. However, mitotane treatment did have some physiological effects, as it reduced the resting heart rate and the duration of the heart rate response to a sudden noise. It also prevented the increase in nighttime activity that we observed in control animals. There was no effect of diazepam on corticosterone, resting heart rate, activity or heart rate response to a sudden noise, and no effect of either treatment on the sympathetic vs parasympathetic control of the resting heart rate. Together, these data suggest that mitotane, but not diazepam, can have a modest impact on helping house sparrows adapt to captive conditions. Easing the transition to captivity will likely make conservation efforts, such as initiating captive breeding programs, more successful.« less