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Responses of small mammals to Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) odour
Article first published online: 20 AUG 2009
Journal of Zoology
Volume 204, Issue 4, pages 521–531, December 1984
How to Cite
Dickman, C. R. and Doncaster, C. P. (1984), Responses of small mammals to Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) odour. Journal of Zoology, 204: 521–531. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.1984.tb02384.x
- Issue published online: 20 AUG 2009
- Article first published online: 20 AUG 2009
- Accepted 14 February 1984
This paper describes the responses of three species of rodents (Apodemus sylvaticus, Microtus agrestis and Clethrionomys glareolus) and a shrew (Sore.x araneus) to traps tainted with the faecal odour of a predator, the Red fox. The rodents generally avoided traps bearing fox odour, but readily entered traps marked with rodent odour, whereas shrews entered all traps equally. Among the rodents, avoidance of fox odour was strongest in male A. sylvaticus and C. glareolus and least in M. agrestis and female A. sylvaticus. Fox droppings were found principally along paths and in open habitats where, of the rodents mentioned, they were most likely to be encountered by A. sylvaticus. It was suggested that avoidance of fox faecal and urinary odours in this species, especially by the active males, would reduce the time spent in areas frequented by foxes, and hence reduce the chance of encountering the predator itself. In contrast, M. agresis would seldom encounter fox droppings in its sub-surface runways, so avoidance of fox faecal odour would do little to reduce its chance of encountering the predator. Avoidance by the rodents of the faecal odour of badger, a predator not present in the study areas, was only slightly less marked than their avoidance of fox faecal odour. It was postulated that similar chemicals eliciting avoidance in rodents may commonly occur in the faeces and urine of carnivores.