Sixty chemical immobilizations of red deer (Cervus elaphus hippelaphus) have been carried out during an etho-ecological study from August 1994 to December 1996 in a 35 ha pen in the district of Nitra (Slovac Republic). Our objective was to determine the efficacy and standard dosages of Zoletil® and Rompun® for the immobilization of adult red deer in feral conditions as an alternative to the use of the highly toxic opioids. We therefore compared an Immobilon®-Rompun® combination (ImRo) with a 1:1 mixture of Zoletil® and Rompun® (ZoRo) as an injectable solution. Use of both combinations led to the immobilization of >92% of deer with an injection volume <3 ml. Mean (SD) dose to achieve immobilization was 35 (14) μg/kg ethorphine + 0.14 (0.056) mg/kg acepromazine + 0.36 (0.14) mg/kg xylazine compared to 1.2 (0.8) mg/kg tiletamine + 1.2 (0.8) mg/kg zolazepam + 2.3 (1.6) mg/kg xylazine. This corresponds to a volume of 1.8 (0.7) ml/100 kg body mass (BM) for ImRo (range = 1.0 to 4.6) and to 2.3 (1.6) ml/100 kg BM for ZoRo (range = 0.7 to 4.0), respectively. Heart rate, respiratory rate and oxyhaemoglobin saturation values did not differ significantly between the two groups during immobilization. Three deer (5%) died during immobilization, but fatalities could not be directly associated with the drug effect. Mean (SD) time from darting to complete immobilization was 5.5 (4.2) min for ImRo and 7.5 (6.1) min for ZoRo, respectively. Differences were not statistically significant. Anesthesia with both combinations of immobilizing agents could be reversed within 2 min using sarmazenile-yohimbine for ZoRo and diprenorphine-yohimbine for ImXy immobilizations, respectively. We conclude that the 1:1 combination of Zoletil® and xylazine is a valuable alternative to the use of opioids for the immobilization of adult red deer including feral adult animals.

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