European Journal of Wildlife Research

, Volume 57, Issue 3, pp 429–435 | Cite as

Obtaining high-quality DNA from elusive small mammals using low-tech hair snares

  • Philippe HenryEmail author
  • Michael A. Russello
Original Paper


Noninvasive sampling approaches are becoming increasingly important for enabling genetic studies of wildlife populations. While a number of methods have been described to noninvasively sample hair from carnivores and medium-sized mammals, they have largely remained untested in elusive small mammals. Here we describe a novel and inexpensive noninvasive hair snare targeted at an elusive small mammal, the American pika (Ochotona princeps). We explore the quality of the sample by assessing PCR amplification success of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA fragments across four commercially available DNA isolation kits and two different quantities of hair in a factorial design. Additionally, we determined the sex of the individual samples using PCR–RFLP of ZFX/ZFY loci. We found that our snare is effective in obtaining hair that yield DNA of sufficient quality and quantity to successfully amplify a range of mitochondrial and nuclear fragment sizes. Specifically, we found the greatest success in amplifying mitochondrial DNA, nuclear microsatellites and ZFX/ZFY loci using at least 25 hairs as starting material and the DNA IQ™ system. The hair snares thus provide a cost-effective and minimally intrusive approach to sample elusive or rare small mammals. We anticipate that this approach will be useful to obtain samples for molecular studies of the ecology, evolution and conservation of small, elusive mammals.


Microsatellites Mitochondrial DNA Noninvasive genetic sampling Molecular sexing Small mammals Ochotona princeps 



We would like to thank L. Evans, B. Granger, D. Rissling, Z. Sim, A. Goodwin, K. Hayhurst, D. Kuch and S. and A. Henry for assistance in the field. K. Galbreath kindly provided pika liver samples from the Bella Coola valley. Thanks to A. Gonçalves da Silva and K. Larsen for interesting discussions that contributed to the design of this noninvasive genetic sampling method. C. Miño, A. Arnall, A. Gonçalves da Silva, C. Ray, M. Peacock and two anonymous reviewers are thanked for valuable comments on the manuscript. This work was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Discovery and UBC Okanagan Individual Research grants to MAR. A Swiss National Science Foundation Doctoral Fellowship PBSKP3_128523 supported PH. This study was undertaken following the animal care protocol from the University of British Columbia (certificate number A07-0126).

Supplementary material

10344_2010_449_MOESM1_ESM.doc (32 kb)
Table S1 Information regarding mitochondrial cytochrome b fragments amplified, including fragment names, primer names and sequences as well as overall length of fragment amplified. (DOC 32 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biology and Centre for Species at Risk and Habitat StudiesUniversity of British ColumbiaKelownaCanada

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