Individual study: The effectiveness of a movement-activated light and noise scarce device, and electronic aversive-training collars to keep wolves Canis lupus, from consuming a food source, Wildlife Science Center, Forest Lake, Minnesota, USA
Shivik J.A. & Callahan P. (2003) Nonlethal techniques for managing predation: primary and secondary repellents. Conservation Biology, 17, 1531-1537
An aversive stimulus device (electronic training collars) and a disruptive stimulus device (a movement-activated light and noise scare device (MAG)) were used in an investigation of their potential into non-lethal techniques for reducing predation of livestock and other domestic animals by wolves Canis lupus, in the USA.
Study area: the Aversive and disruptive stimulus approaches were tested with captive wolves at the Wildlife Science Center, Forest Lake, Minnesota.
i) a MAG device installed such that an approach within 2 m of the food source (1 kg prtions of sled-dog chow) would activate (via an infra-red sensor) the strobe light and sound (30 recorded sounds including yelling, gunfire and helicopters) stimuli;
ii) an electronic training collar set to activate if a wolf approached within 2 m of the food source (by burying collar-activation wires around it);
iii) a control with the food source unprotected.
Initial trials were undertaken during June and July 2002. Wolves assigned collars were in four groups of one, two, three, and four animals. Wolves assigned the MAG treatment were in six groups of one, two, three, four, six, and seven animals each. Four controls had one, two, three, and four wolves. Trials were run for 1 h and began when the food source was placed in the wolf pen. The amount of the 1 kg dog food portion that was consumed was recorded. Training collars were fitted 1–2 days before the first trial. The same trials were re-run in August 2002 after collars and MAG devices were removed.
The measurement of food consumed by wolves indicated a significant treatment effect; less food was consumed using the MAG than in the control treatment. The training collar was not effective: some wolves found the stimuli very noxious and immediately jumped, yelped and ran away from the food; others acted as if the stimulus was only mildly annoying, if at all, and continued to eat. One female wolf sat and scratched at the collar but did not retreat upon activation. During all post-treatment trials, all food was completely consumed in all groups (MAG, collar and controls), indicating no conditioning against the food resource.
In this and other reported studies, electronic training collars were difficult to use with wolves. Substantial logistical, animal care, and maintenance issues, and variation in wolf response to the collar puts into doubt their usefulness in aversive conditioning (e.g. of captive wolves to be released into the wild) into management programs.
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