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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

A mechanistic understanding of repellent function against mammalian herbivores

Stutz, Rebecca S.; Verschuur, Louisan; Leimar, Olof; Bergvall, Ulrika A.


BackgroundBrowsing repellents are widely used to deter large herbivores from consuming plants of ecological, economic and aesthetic importance. Understanding how these repellents function on a behavioural mechanistic level is critical to predicting effectiveness. Here, we illustrate how these mechanisms can be tested, by exposing a model mammalian herbivore, the fallow deer, to different concentrations of a commercial chemical repellent (HaTe2) in two-choice feeding trials.ResultsThe repellent acted as a defensive chemical for the food by both reducing visitation and the amount consumed. Deer favoured the less defended feeders before ingesting any food, suggesting that the repellent altered olfactory and/or visual cues. Deer also consumed less of the more defended food when choosing between low and high repellent feeders than no and low repellent feeders, indicating that the repellent modified flavour and/or sensation. Repellent effectiveness declined with increased exposure, suggesting that consumption had no negative post-ingestive effects, and thus, deterrence was not caused by a conditioned aversion or irritation. Instead, this pattern suggests that deer learned, through repeated sampling of repellent-treated food, that there was no adverse physiological effect of ingesting it.ConclusionsThese results imply that HaTe2 repellent will not be effective over prolonged periods or in the absence of alternative untreated food. Understanding the mechanisms driving repellent function using two-choice trials could help practitioners decide whether a particular repellent is likely to be effective against mammalian herbivory in their management scenario.


Browse; Foraging decisions; Forestry; Ungulate; Wildlife damage

Published in

Ecological processes
2019, Volume: 8, article number: 25
Publisher: SPRINGER

      SLU Authors

    • Verschuur, Louisanne

    • UKÄ Subject classification

      Forest Science

      Publication identifier


      Permanent link to this page (URI)