Dierenfeld, E.S., H.L. Alcorn, and K.L. Jacobsen. 2002. Nutrient Composition of Whole Vertebrate Prey (Excluding Fish) Fed in Zoos. National Agricultural Library Z7994.Z65, 20 pp. http://www.nal.usda.gov/awic/zoo/WholePreyFinal02May29.pdf
Although nutritionally balanced formulations, largely based upon nutrient requirements of domestic cats, are commercially available for many zoo carnivores, some choose to use whole prey as a part or all of certain captive feeding programs. Whole prey are similar in physical form to the natural diet of some carnivores, and are commonly presumed to meet nutrient requirements as long as nearly all soft tissues and some bones (or other calcified tissues) are consumed. This use has the potential to positively influence behavior, and may have positive, indifferent, or negative effects on health. Prey sizes offered are commonly related to consumer body size. Prey species offered tend to relate to documented or perceived natural feeding habits and/or individual animal preferences. Little consideration has been given to differences in nutrient composition associated with prey species, age, sex, and diet. Further, origin, handling, and storage methods influence the nutritional value and healthfulness of prey. These issues, as well compositional data, are discussed in the following sections.