U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



Published in Ecological Applications, 5(4), 1995, pp. 1163-1170.


Predator odors have potential as feeding repellents for mammalian herbivores, including Aplodontia rufa, the mountain beaver. However, the repellency of major chemical constituents of natural predator scents for this species has not been evaluated. In this study, the effects of several synthetic sulfur compounds from predator scents on feeding by mountain beavers were assessed and compared to the effects of coyote (Canis latrans) urine. Retrieval of food by mountain beavers from bowls scented with either coyote urine, diluted with water to different concentrations, synthetic components of predator scents, or control odorants was studied. The following synthetic compounds were tested: Δ3-Isopentenyl methyl sulfide (IMS), a compound present in urine from several canid species; 2,2 dimethylthietane (DMT), a major constituent in anal gland secretion from the mink (Mustela vison); a 1: 1 mixture of 2-propylthietane (PT) and 3-propyl-l,2-dithiolane (PDT), compounds occurring in anal gland secretions from the stoat (Mustela errninea) and the ferret (Mustela putorius). Habituation to PT plus PDT was studied by measuring consumption of dry pellets during continuous exposure to these compounds for 5 d. In two-choice feeding trials mountain beavers retrieved significantly more food from bowls scented with water than from bowls scented with coyote urine. Dilution of urine had no statistically significant effect on food retrieval, but repellency tended to decrease with decreasing concentration. Mountain beavers retrieved less food scented with a 1: 1 mixture of PT and PDT, compared to controls. However, they rapidly habituated to this mixture. None of the other compounds caused an avoidance response. These results show that complex natural predator scents are more effective feeding repellents than some of their major volatile components alone.