Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Haematological and biochemical reference intervals for free-ranging brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Sweden

Anne Randi Græsli123, Åsa Fahlman4, Alina L Evans3, Mads Frost Bertelsen2, Jon Martin Arnemo35 and Søren Saxmose Nielsen1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Large Animal Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Grønnegårdsvej 8, Frederiksberg C, DK-1870, Denmark

2 Center for Zoo and Wild Animal Health, Copenhagen Zoo, Roskildevej 38, Frederiksberg, DK-2000, Denmark

3 Department of Forestry and Wildlife Management, Faculty of Applied Ecology and Agricultural Sciences, Hedmark University College, Campus Evenstad, Elverum, NO-2418, Norway

4 Department of Clinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Animal Science, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, SE-750 07, Sweden

5 Department of Wildlife, Fish and Environmental Studies, Faculty of Forest Sciences, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Umeå, SE-901 83, Sweden

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BMC Veterinary Research 2014, 10:183  doi:10.1186/s12917-014-0183-x

Published: 21 August 2014



Establishment of haematological and biochemical reference intervals is important to assess health of animals on individual and population level. Reference intervals for 13 haematological and 34 biochemical variables were established based on 88 apparently healthy free-ranging brown bears (39 males and 49 females) in Sweden. The animals were chemically immobilised by darting from a helicopter with a combination of medetomidine, tiletamine and zolazepam in April and May 2006–2012 in the county of Dalarna, Sweden. Venous blood samples were collected during anaesthesia for radio collaring and marking for ecological studies. For each of the variables, the reference interval was described based on the 95% confidence interval, and differences due to host characteristics sex and age were included if detected. To our knowledge, this is the first report of reference intervals for free-ranging brown bears in Sweden.


The following variables were not affected by host characteristics: red blood cell, white blood cell, monocyte and platelet count, alanine transaminase, amylase, bilirubin, free fatty acids, glucose, calcium, chloride, potassium, and cortisol. Age differences were seen for the majority of the haematological variables, whereas sex influenced only mean corpuscular haemoglobin concentration, aspartate aminotransferase, lipase, lactate dehydrogenase, β-globulin, bile acids, triglycerides and sodium.


The biochemical and haematological reference intervals provided and the differences due to host factors age and gender can be useful for evaluation of health status in free-ranging European brown bears.

Brown bear; Ursus arctos; Haematology; Biochemistry; Reference intervals