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Effects of Predator Odors on Feeding in the Mountain Beaver (Aplodontia rufa)

Gisela Epple, J. Russell Mason, Dale L. Nolte, Dan L. Campbell
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.2307/1382293 715-722 First published online: 20 August 1993

Abstract

Consumption of food by Aplodontia rufa from bowls scented with control odors, secretion from anal glands of minks (Mustela vison) or urine from minks, bobcats (Felis rufus) and coyotes (Canis latrans) was studied. In two-choice control tests, subjects indiscriminately consumed apple from unscented bowls and from bowls scented with urine from an unfamiliar herbivore (Cavia porcellus), or with butyric acid. During two-choice tests offering apple from bowls scented with secretion from anal glands of minks and from bowls scented with butyric acid, significantly less apple was consumed from bowls containing mink scent. In two-choice tests in which apple was offered from bowls scented with urine from either mink, bobcat, coyote, or domestic dog, all predator urines reduced feeding. Habituation was studied by measuring consumption of dry pellets during continuous exposure to coyote urine for 5 days. Significantly less chow was consumed from bowls scented with coyote urine than from control bowls, indicating a lack of habituation to the predator scent. We conclude that predator scents act as natural repellents. The responsiveness to scents from several sympatric predators as well as from domestic dogs suggest an innate reaction to a signal, which is common to carnivores. The utility of predator scents in the control of browsing damage by mountain beavers should be explored.

Key words
  • Aplodontia rufa
  • mountain beaver
  • predator odors
  • feeding repellents.

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