Do Repugnant Scents Increase Survival of Ground Nests? A Test with Artificial and Natural Duck Nests


  • Vanessa B. Harriman Department of Biology, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan S7N 5E2
  • Justin A. Pitt Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta T6G 2E9
  • Serge Larivière Cree Hunters and Trappers Income Security Board, Quebec, Quebec G1V 4K5



Coyote, Canis latrans, urine, human hair, mothballs, napthaldehyde, nest predation, olfactory cues, waterfowl, Manitoba


Ground-nesting birds typically experience high predation rates on their nests, often by mammalian predators. As such, researchers and wildlife managers have employed numerous techniques to mitigate nest predation. We investigated the use of scents as repellents to deter predators from both artificial and natural ground nests. Survival rates of artificial nests did not differ among six groups of substances (Wald ?2df = 5 = 4.53, P < 0.48); however the chronology of predation among groups differed. A commercial Coyote urine based deterrent (DEER-D-TERTM), human hair, and Worcestershire sauce were depredated faster than the control (F4,5 = 40.3, P < 0.001). Nest survival of natural nests differed among those groups tested (Wald ?2 df = 2 = 11.8, P < 0.005); the eight mothball treatment decreased survival (Wald ?2 df = 1 = 11.5, P < 0.005), which indicated that novel smells may attract predators or result in duck nest abandonment when coupled with natural duck scent. Chronologies of predation events among treatment groups were not different for natural nests (F2,3 = 1.9, P = 0.22). These findings indicate an interaction between novel scents and predator olfactory cues.