Deer react to predator scent in varying degrees even when exposed to unknown predators. This response could be genetically based and maintained as long as the population is exposed to predation. We tested whether predator scent in the form of hair would enhance perceived risk and serve as a foraging repellent to free-ranging white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). During the winters of 2013 and 2014, we quantified alert behaviors and consumption of whole-kernel corn in response to current (coyote [Canis latrans]) and extirpated (bobcat [Lynx rufus]; black bear [Ursus americanus]) predator species alone and in combination with a partial visual barrier. Due to changes in herd dynamics and weather conditions, we did not compare results between years. We found enhanced alert behavior in all experiments except the 2014 exposure to coyote hair. Alert behaviors were heightened for about 4 days after hair placement. However, corn consumption was reduced only in the 2013 coyote-hair experiment. Our results suggest predator hair, when used alone and in conjunction with a form of visual barrier, can provide an element of protection from deer damage, but energetic needs will override the enhanced perceived risk caused by predator hair. Further work integrating complete visual barriers with predator hair is warranted.
Seamans, Thomas W.; Blackwell, Bradley F.; and Linnell, Kimberly E.
"Use of predator hair to enhance perceived risk to white-tailed deer in a foraging context,"
Human–Wildlife Interactions: Vol. 10
, Article 15.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/hwi/vol10/iss2/15