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Individual study: Negative operant conditioning fails to deter white-tailed deer foraging activity

Published source details

Gallagher G.R. & Prince R.H. (2003) Negative operant conditioning fails to deter white-tailed deer foraging activity. Crop Protection, 22, 893-895

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Use noise aversive conditioning to deter crop damage by mammals to reduce human-wildlife conflict Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

A replicated, controlled study in 2001 on a pasture site in Georgia, USA (Gallagher & Prince 2003) found that attempts to condition white-tailed deer Odocoileus virginianus to avoid food when a metronome was played, by initially playing the sound alongside an electric wire deterrent, reduced, but did not eliminate, consumption of the food. With the metronome active but the electric wire deactivated, corn consumption (1.4–2.0 kg/day) was generally lower than at unprotected feeders (2.2 kg/day) but was higher than when both the metronome and electric wire deterrent were active (0–0.1 kg/day). Deer were studied in three 13-ha pasture plots, each containing two feeders, 6.5 m apart. Feeders comprised a plastic tray on a toolbox. At one feeder in each plot, the box housed an electric fence charger and an electronic metronome. An electric fence wire on each tray was likely to be touched by deer accessing corn. Each feeder was supplied with 2.3 kg/day of whole corn. Unconsumed corn was weighed and removed. Data were collected during six 5-day periods in April–May 2001. During the first, third and fifth periods, electric chargers and metronomes were activated. In alternate periods, only metronomes remained active.

(Summarised by Nick Littlewood)