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Vertebrate pest repellent development with special reference to rabbits, badgers and grey squirrels (extension VC0404) - VC0414

Repellents offer a benign alternative to lethal methods for reducing the problems posed by pest species. This study will aim to demonstrate the use of repellents as practical and effective solutions to real pest management problems, including systemic applications to enhance crop resistance to rabbit damage, use of multi-sensory formulations as badger repellents and use of capsaicin as a grey squirrel repellent. The study will be composed of 5 specific objectives outlined as follows, together with ways in which they might be achieved: 1. Development of a spray and/or fertiliser application of silica as a technique for protecting crops against rabbit damage. Methods for treating winter wheat with calcium silicate and slag will be established, prior to investigating the effects of these compounds on physical and chemical defences of the crop. Longevity of the effects of silicate fertilisation will be studied as well as the palatability of winter wheat following silicate fertilisation to captive wild rabbits. In order to extend these studies of cereal crops to dicotyledenous species that are vulnerable to rabbit damage, systemic application of silicates to oilseed rape will be investigated; 2. Evaluation of the effectiveness of reducing the palatability of crop plants for rabbits as a means of reducing damage, including assessment of effects on rabbit ranging behaviour using radio-tracking and smart tag technologies; 3. Development of multi-sensory formulations of badger repellents that are designed to operate through learned avoidance of an associated cue. Badger repellents (ziram, Bitrex) will be formulated with various candidate odours and tested in field trials against AAprotect. Potential of the multi-sensory formulation to reduce feeding damage to a model crop (e.g. maize cobs distributed to mimic badger damage along a field boundary) will be assessed; 4. Evaluation of the use of topical and systemic formulations of badger repellents to produce learned avoidance and reduce structural damage and nuisance behaviours. Efficacy of Bitrex (systemically or topically applied with and without multi-sensory formulation) or ziram (topically applied with and without multi-sensory formulation) will be evaluated as deterrents against digging/foraging damage by badgers. Appropriate study sites, reflecting practical problems, will be identified and video and radio-tracking technology will be used to quantify reductions in the undesirable behaviour of individual badgers that are elicited by repellent use; 5. Development of a spray formulation of capsaicin and evaluation of its effectiveness at reducing localised damage by grey squirrels. Initially, trees at most risk of squirrel damage will be identified. Efficient cost-effective methods of applying capsaicin to trees will be developed by adapting capsaicin capsule size to allow standard sprayer technology to be used. Effectiveness of this formulation in preventing damage in amenity and domestic settings will then be tested.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Vertebrate pest repellent development with special reference to rabbits, badgers and grey squirrels (extension VC0404)   (1117k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 1998

To: 2002

Cost: £385,680
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Central Science Laboratory
Pest and Weed Control              
Pest Control              
Plants and Animals              
Fields of Study
Wildlife Management