Why Predator Urines Work to Repel Animals of Prey

The Journal of Chemical Ecology, Vol. 20, No. 7

The Journal of Chemical Ecology, Vol. 20, No. 7

Included in a 1994 edition of The Journal of Chemical Ecology, Vol. 20, No. 7, there is a research article called “Why Are Predator Urines Aversive to Prey?” The following is the introductory paragraph.:

“Predator odors are generally aversive to potential prey species, including Lepus and Cuniculus 1, Aplodontia 2, Microtus 3, Thomomys 4, Marmota 5, Rattus 6, Capreoluts and Cervus 7 and Odocoileus 8. Avoidance appears to be mediated, at least in part, by urinary constituents that are not species specific. Such compounds may constitute a generalized meat eater cue 9 or predator “leitmotif” 10”

You might ask… “Why would you start a Blog post with a quote like that?” The answer lies in the results of their research.  The article references prior research (see footnotes and references)  that has demonstrated predator urine’s effectiveness in repelling many animals of prey including (in order of their Latin Species name showing in the introduction above):

  • Beavers
  • Voles
  • Mice
  • Pocket Gophers
  • Squirrels
  • Rats and Deer

 

The researchers, Nolte, Mason, Epple, Aronov & Campbell knew from prior experiments that animals of prey avoid areas where a predator has “marked” with its urine. In this article, the group proposed that prey animals’ noses are sophisticated to the point where they can determine not only that predators are present through those markings, but they can even sense what a predator’s dietary habits have been!

It is common knowledge that animals of prey have a much more sensitive sense of smell than do humans. However, to conclude that an animal of prey can detect what a predator has eaten based on the scent of their urine would establish a new level of understanding regarding how highly developed their olfactory glands are and about a prey animal’s sensitivity to recognizing the threat of a predator.

So what happened in this research experiment?

The First Experiment:
The researchers performed three experiments. Since the first one is the most interesting, We’ll concentrate this blog post on this part of the research.

The Subjects:
The researchers introduced four rodent species: Mountain Beaver, House Mice, Deer Mice and Guinea Pigs as subjects to the testing. These animals were kept in outdoor pens where they were individually caged.

The Stimuli:
The researchers brought in four male coyotes that were fed two very different types of diets:

  1. For two weeks the coyotes were fed a diet ONLY of cantaloupe. Yep, the orange fruit that we enjoy at the hotel breakfast buffet. These urine samples were labeled “FU”
  2. Then for two more weeks the coyotes were fed their normal diet of minced raw meat. These urine samples were labeled “MU”

During both periods of time, urine was separately collected and stored (frozen) prior to the experiment

The researchers brought in four male coyotes that were fed two very different types of diets:

  1. For two weeks the coyotes were fed a diet ONLY of cantaloupe. Yep, the orange fruit that we enjoy at the hotel breakfast buffet. The urine samples collected from the coyotes being fed this diet were labeled “FU”
  2. Then for two more weeks the coyotes were fed their normal diet of minced raw meat. The urine samples collect from the coyotes being fed this diet  were  labeled “MU”

During both periods of time, urine was separately collected and stored (frozen) prior to the experiment.

Following a period of 18 hours of food deprivation the rodents were fed in two different locations, one of the feeding areas had been treated with the FU samples and the other feeding area was treated with the MU samples. Food and urine samples were rotated.

Results:
The response from the subject animals was nearly consistent for all four rodent species. The containers treated with the “MU” (meat eating) urine samples around them showed nearly a 50% reduction in the amount of food consumed when compared to the feeding areas treated with the FU (fruit/cantaloupe) samples.

Why does the research prove, and what can we conclude about how predator urine works to repel animals of prey?  This research amplifies the well known fact that animals rely heavily on their nose to decipher the threats that may be present in their surroundings. The results of the study go further in showing that animals highly sensitive sense of smell is even able to detect what the looming predator has had for dinner! Based on that finely tuned ability, a prey animal is more likely to determine a predator’s presence is a threat if the predator has included animal proteins (such as the flesh of other animals) in it’s diet. The higher the level of threat detected by the prey animal, the more likely he is to avoid the area marked by the predator – even when being driven by food deprivation!

Critter-Repellent.com offers repellents using the urine of predators who ingest an animal protein based diet because, as the scientific research suggests, they are effective in repelling animals, but in addition to that, we are proud to provide people with a solution, Shake-Away Repellent, to their animal pest problems that is also:

  • Easy to apply
  • Safe to use around family, pets and plants and is
  • All Natural – effective without chemicals and/or poisons.

1 (Sullivan et al., 1985a: Sullivan, 1986; Sullivan and Crump, 1984, 1986a; Robinson, 1990)
2 (Epple et al., 1993; Nolte et al., 1993)
3 (Dickman and Doncaster, 1984; Gorman 1984; Stoddart, 1976, 1980, 1982; Sullivan et al., 1988; Merkins et al., 1991)
4 (Sullivan et al., 1990; Sullivan and Crump, 1986b)
5 (Swihart, 1991)
6 (Vernet-Maury, 1980; Vernet-Maury et al., 1984)
7 (Abbot et al., 1990; Van Haaften, 1963)
8 (Melchiors and Leslie, 1985; MullerSchwarze, 1972; Sullivan et al., 1985b; Swihart et all., 1991)
9 (Epple et al., 1993; Abbott et al., 1990)
10 (Stoddart, 1980)

REFERENCES

Abott, D.H., Baines, D.A., Faulkes, C.G., Jennens, D.C., Ning, P.C.Y.K., and Tomlinson, A.J. 1990. A natural deer repellent: chemistry and behavior, pp. 599-609, in D. W. Macdonald, D. Muller-Schwarze, and S.E. Natynczuk (eds.). Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 5. Oxyford, University Press, Oxford.

Dickman, C.R., and Doncaster, C.P. 1984. Responses of small mammals to red fox (Vulpes vulpes) odour. J.Zool. London 13:183-187.

Epple, G., Mason, J.R., Nolte, D.L., 1993. Effects of predator odors on feeding in the mountain beaver (Aplodontia rufa). J. Mammal. 74:715-722.

Gorma, M. L. 1984. The responses of prey to stoat (Mustela erminea) scent. J. Zool. London 202:419-423.

Melchiors, M.A., and Leslie, C.A. 1985. Effectiveness of predator fecal odors as black-tailed deer repellents. J. Wildl. Manage. 49:358-362.

Merkins, M., Harestad, A.S., and Sullivan, T.P. 1991. Cover and effecacy of predator-based repellent for Townsend’s vole, Microtus townsendii. J. Checm. Ecol. 17:401-412

Robinson, I. 1990. The effect of mink odour on rabbits and small mammals, pp. 567-572, in D.W. Macdonald, D. Muller-Schwarze, and S.E. Natynczuk, (eds.). Chemical Signals in Vertebrates 5. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Stoddart, D.M. 1976. Effect of the odour of weasels (mustela nivalis L.) on trapped samples of their prey. oecologia 22:439-441.

Stoddart, D.M. 1980. Some responses of a free living community of rodents to the odors of predators, pp. 1-10, in D. Muller-Schwarze and R. M. Silverstein (eds). Chemical Signals: Vertegrates and Aquatic Invertebrates. Plenum Press, New York.

Stoddart, D.M. 1982. Demonstrations of olfactory discrimination by the short-tailed vole,  microtus agrestis. Anim. Behav.  20:293-294.

Sullivan, T.P., and Crump, D.R. 1984. Influence of mustelid scent glad compounds on the suppression of feeding by snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). J. Chem. Ecol.  10:1809-1821.

Sullivan, T.P., and Crump, D.R. 1986a. Feeding responses of snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) to volatile constituents of red fox (Vulpes vulpes) urine. J. Chem. Ecol.  12:229-239.

Sullivan, T.P., and Crump, D.R. 1986b. Avoidance response of pocket gophers (Thomomys talpoides) to mustelid and gland compounds, pp. 519-531, in D. Duvall, D. Muller-Schwarze, and R.M. Silverstein (eds.). Chemical signals in Vertebrates 4, Ecology, Evolution and Comparative Biology. Plenum Press, New York.

Sullivan, T.P., Nordstrom, L.O., and Sullivan, D.S. 1985a. Use of predator odors as repellents to reduce feeding damage by herbivores: Snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). J. Chem. Ecol. 11:903-909.

Sullivan, T.P., Crump, D.R. Wieser, H., and Dixon, A. 1990. Responses of pocket gophers (Thomomys Talpoides) to and operational application of synthetic semiochemcials of stoat (Mussiela erminea). J. Checm Ecol.  16:941-949

Swihart, R.K. 1991 Modifying scent marking behavior to reduce woodchuck damage to fruit trees. Ecol. Appl.  1:98-103

Van Hasften, J.L. 1963. A natural repellent, pp. 389-392, in Transactions of the VI congress of the International Union of Game Biologists. The Nature Conservancy, London.

Vernet-Maury, E. 1980. Trimethyl-thiazoline in fox feces: A natural alarming substance for the rat, p. 407, in H. Van der Starre (ed). Olfaction and Taste VII. IRL Press, Washingon, D.C.

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