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Providing evidence to improve practice

Action: Use scent to deter predation of livestock by mammals to reduce human-wildlife conflict Terrestrial Mammal Conservation

Key messages

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  • Three studies evaluated the effects of using scent to deter predation of livestock by mammals to reduce human-wildlife conflict. Two studies were in the USA and one was in Botswana.





  • Human-wildlife conflict (3 studies): Two of three studies (including one replicated, before-and-after study), in the USA and Botswana, found that applying scent marks from unfamiliar African wild dogs and grey wolves restricted movements of these species. The other study found that applying scent marks from coyotes did not restrict their movements.

Supporting evidence from individual studies


A study in 2007–2009 of a shrubland and grassland wildlife refuge and a replicated, randomized study in 2006 at a captive facility in Utah, USA (Shivik et al. 2011) found that applying coyote Canis latrans scent as a trial of its use in deterring livestock predation did not reduce visits by coyotes. In the wildlife refuge study, wild coyotes visited areas marked with other coyotes’ scent more often (average 36 visits/coyote) than they visited non-marked areas (average 11 visits/coyote). In the captive study, coyotes visited areas marked with other coyotes’ scent more often than they visited non-marked areas both at territory boundaries (marked: 17 visits; not marked: 6 visits) and within territories (marked: 13 visits; not marked: 7 visits). In the wildlife refuge, GPS-collar data were obtained from three coyotes that had been followed for >10 weeks to define home-ranges. Within each home range, 1–2 clearings (2 ha), >100 m apart, were randomly selected and either marked with coyote urine (1–2 ml every 1–2 m) or left unmarked. Coyotes were monitored for four weeks. The captive study was conducted over two 13–14-day periods in October–November 2006. Two from four coyote pairs, housed in 1-ha pens, were randomly selected to have the boundary of 7% of their pen area marked with urine and scats from other coyotes. Two pairs did not have their pens marked. The behaviour of each coyote was monitored for eight hours through direct observation.


A study in 2008–2010 at a savanna reserve in Botswana (Jackson et al. 2012) found that applying scent marks from other African wild dogs Lycaon pictus at the reserve boundary caused resident wild dogs to return towards the centre of their range. Seven of eight scent mark applications were followed by wild dogs moving closer to the centre of their range within the reserve. An additional application, 24 h after initial applying scents, generated the same response on the eighth occasion. Wild dogs moved further in the day after application (average 7.2 km) than when no marks were applied (3.4 km). This response reduced movements onto neighbouring farmland and potential livestock depredation. Eighteen wild dogs were translocated to the reserve and released in April 2008. When they moved to the reserve boundary, 3–26 wild dog urine and faeces marks, brought from a different site, were applied 50–200 m from the pack. The pack was monitored, using GPS collars or visual observation, from September 2008 to February 2010.


A replicated, before-and-after study in 2008–2011 in three forest-dominated sites in Idaho, USA (Ausband et al. 2013) found that marking grey wolf Canis lupus territories with lines of scent from other wolf packs restricted wolf movements in some but not all cases. Results were not tested for statistical significance. Overall, the proportion of location fixes indicating that wolves had crossed scent lines was variable after scents were deployed (0–23%) and before scent deployment (1–12%). No incursions across scent lines were recorded in single years for two wolf packs (out of five pack/year combinations). In other cases, there was less evidence of scent lines reducing incursions. Two parallel 10–36-km lines were marked across wolf pack territories in 2010 (two packs) and 2011 (three packs). Lines were marked with 3 ml of urine from a different wolf pack, every 500 m and with 6 ml of urine every 750 m, and scats every km. Scent marks were refreshed every 10–14 days in June–August. Wolf packs (8–14 wolves) were monitored by satellite tracking of 2–4 wolves in each pack for 3–4 years during May–September of 2008–2011.

Referenced papers

Please cite as:

Littlewood, N.A., Rocha, R., Smith, R.K., Martin, P.A., Lockhart, S.L., Schoonover, R.F., Wilman, E., Bladon, A.J., Sainsbury, K.A., Pimm S. and Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Terrestrial Mammal Conservation: Global Evidence for the Effects of Interventions for terrestrial mammals excluding bats and primates. Synopses of Conservation Evidence Series. University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK.