5 Jan 2017

Ferret eau de parfum

From Summer Times, 10:09 am on 5 January 2017

A team from Landcare Research has made a smelly discovery in the fight against pests. It seems that a bit of ferret odour could help save our native birds.

Dr Al Glenn a wildlife ecologist at Land Care research, whose area of expertise is invasive animals and their impact on native wildlife, says its research has discovered the scent of a competing predator is highly attractive.  

And this can greatly increase the chance of luring predators into traps.

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Photo: Suplied / DOC

Dr Glenn says the olfactory breakthrough is based on work done by a colleague Dr Patrick Garvey.

“Patrick has discovered the body odour of ferrets is extremely attractive to other predator species including stoats, rats and hedgehogs.”

Although stoats are extremely scared of ferrets when they are actually present, the odour of ferret is a different matter.

“To our great surprise we discovered that the predator odour actually worked as an attractant to stoats as opposed to a deterrent.

“They make a very cautious approach to the odour, they feel compelled to investigate this smell find out what’s going on.”

The experiments in the field until now have relied on using odour collected direct from live ferrets, which works well but doesn’t lend itself to mass production.

The next step, Dr Glenn says, is to chemically analyse the ferret odour to see if it can be synthesised in a laboratory.

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