Deer Responses to Repellent Stimuli
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Four repellents representing different modes of action (neophobia, irritation, conditioned aversion, and flavor modification) were tested with captive white-tailed deer in a series of two-choice tests. Two diets differing significantly in energy content were employed in choice tests so that incentive to consume repellent-treated diets varied according to which diet was treated. When the high-energy diet was treated with repellents, only blood (flavor modification) and capsaicin (irritation) proved highly effective. Rapid habituation to the odor of meat and bone meal (neophobia) presented in a sachet limited its effectiveness as a repellent under conditions with a high feeding motivation. Thiram, a stimulus used to condition aversions, was not strongly avoided in these trials, that included only limited exposures to the repellent. These data support previous studies indicating that habituation to odor limits the effectiveness of repellents that are not applied directly to food, while topically-applied irritants and animal-based products produce significant avoidance.