Flavor avoidance learning and itsimplications in reducing strychnine baiting hazards to non-target animals
Physiology and Behavior
In reforested areas, underground strychnine baiting to control pocket gophers (Thomomys mazama) poses a hazard to golden mantled ground squirrels (Spermophilus lateralis) and yellow pine chipmunks (Eutamias amoenus). We designed this study to assess whether: 1) chemical insensitivity to bitter tastes might explain the ingestion of strychnine; 2) pocket gophers would avoid four bitter-tasting compounds: quebracho (QUEB), sucrose octaacetate (SOA), quinine hydrochloride (QHCl), and denatonium benzoate (DB); and 3) nontarget species could be trained to avoid strychnine paired with the most aversive compound. Our results showed that while all species readily consumed strychnine, the nontarget species could be conditioned to avoid it. Moreover, while high (0.1%) concentrations of DB, quinine hydrochloride, and quebracho reduced consumption by pocket gophers, 0.05% DB was inoffensive. Nontarget animals readily avoided 0.05% DB, and avoidance was stronger after conditioning. Together, our results suggest that all of the rodents tested are insensitive to strychnine, high concentrations of some bitter tastes may be effective pocket gopher repellents, and lower concentrations of DB may selectively repel nontarget animals from strychnine baits.
El Hani, A., J. R. Mason, D. L. Nolte, and R. H. Schmidt. 1998. Flavor avoidance learning and its implications in reducing strychnine baiting hazards to non-target animals. Physiology and Behavior 64(5):585-589.