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Conditioned taste aversion in the grey fox ( Pseudalopex griseus), in Southern Argentine Patagonia

By S. Nielsen, A. Travaini, A. I. Vassallo, D. Procopio, S. C. Zapata

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Attempts to control cougar ( Puma concolor) and culpeo fox ( Pseudalopex culpaeus) populations in Patagonia through poisoning, negatively affects grey foxes ( Pseudalopex griseus) and many other non-target species. It is therefore advisable to develop selective predator control methods. Among a wide range of potential methods, are those based on manipulating the behaviour of non-target species. Conditioned taste aversion (CTA) develops when an animal associates taste with subsequent illness, and, after recovery, avoids the referent taste. Food aversions can be potentially useful in efforts to reduce losses of non-target species when lethal baits are distributed to control other predators. We evaluated two ways to add the aversion agent Levamisole hydrochloride to a bait to generate CTA in grey foxes. We established one control (without Levamisole) and two treatments: plain Levamisole and an ion-exchange resin complex (resinate: Amberlite IRP-64) aiming to mask the taste of Levamisole. Foxes that ate plain Levamisole baits, ate fewer baits than those in control (26.7% plain Levamisole baits vs. 83.3% untreated baits, P=0.002) even after plain Levamisole was no longer present in the baits (40.0% vs. 86.6% untreated baits, treatment and control respectively, P=0.007). Foxes that ate Levamisole resinate baits, also ate fewer baits than those in control (50.0% Levamisole resinate baits vs. 83.3% untreated baits, P=0.043) but then resumed consumption when baits no longer contained the Levamisole resinate (73.3% vs. 86.6% untreated baits, treatment and control respectively, P=0.329). Thus, foxes that failed to detect the plain Levamisole in baits acquired CTA to the bait. Contrary to our expectations, foxes detected the Levamisole resinate, associated illness with it and so resumed eating baits as soon as the resinate was withdrawn. Additionally, in the control, where foxes were familiar with untreated "safe" baits, we repeated the treatment with Levamisole resinate baits to test latent inhibition (decrement in conditioning to a stimulus as a result of its prior exposure). We found that treated bait consumption did not decrease as before, during a similar number of days (76.6% Levamisole resinate baits vs. 83.3% untreated baits, P=0.631), suggesting that latent inhibition prevented development of CTA within our experimental time period. CTA induced among grey foxes that consume plain Levamisole baits might spare them from being poisoned in attempts to control other species of predators.

Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 163
Pages 167-174
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.12.006
Language English
Author Address Centro de Investigaciones Puerto Deseado, Universidad Nacional de la Patagonia Austral, Avenida Prefectura Naval S/N, 9050 Puerto Deseado, Santa Cruz,
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal ecology
  3. Animals
  4. Anthelmintics
  5. Argentina
  6. Bait
  7. Biological control
  8. Canidae
  9. Carnivores
  10. Cats
  11. Conditioning
  12. Control
  13. Countries
  14. Developing countries
  15. Drug therapy
  16. Forestry
  17. Foxes
  18. Inhibition
  19. Latin America
  20. Mammals
  21. natural enemies
  22. peer-reviewed
  23. pest control
  24. Pesticides and Drugs
  25. Poisoning
  26. predators
  27. Puma
  28. salt
  29. South America
  30. taste
  31. therapy
  32. Threshold
  33. toxicology
  34. United States of America
  35. vertebrates
  1. peer-reviewed