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Do deer smell Human Urine


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#1 TRMichels

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 05:19 AM

I got that question over on the deer forum on the Christian Outdoor Fellowship of America (COFA, of which I am co-founder).


Here was my answer:

Again, as a person who has either done a lot af personal research on whitetails and elk, or who has read a lot of research papers on those animals, let me set it straight.

Urine is different in different species, due to the chemicals found in what they eat. Thus, those animals (such as predators and humans) that eat meat, have a lot more protein in their urine, than those animals that are primarily vegetarion ("grazers" like elk, "browsers" like whitetails).

It has been found that a deer's sense of smell is about 1000 times better than that of a human.

Urine breaks down within hours into ammonia and other substances, due to bacterial action and being exposed to air.

Part of the answer to the question lies in the amount of scent (human urine) left behind, and how long it has been there, the less urine left, and the longer it has been there, the less it smells like human urine, and the more it smells like ammonia (which is non-threatening).

So - deer and elk can tell the difference between the urine of something that has recently eaten meat, and somehting that has not eaten meat.

Deer use their eyes ther ears and their nose to detect danger. But, unlike the other tow senses, when a deer smells danger - the response goes directly to a part of the brain that often causes an immediate respone- rather than a response to further investigate - so that it can verify that what it sees, hears or smells is dangerous.

The question then arises - Does high protein urine alarm deer and elk?

The answer to that lies in the fact that deer and elk routinely come across urine of predators, thus it may cause them to become "aware" of the fact that a meat eater was in the area. But, it may not cause them to become alarmed, if no other predator-related scents (such as dander, perspiration oils and odors, feces, or breath odors) are associated are detected.


In a study of how whitetails react to buck urine, doe urine, pre-estrus urine, estrus urine, post estrus urine and human urine, the most positive responses were to human urine. I suspect this was a "curiosity" response.

If a deer needs to be aware of everything in its home range - in order to survive - then it has to learn about everything in that home range, which means it probably investigates "new" or "unfamiliar" things (like human scents) - in order to learn. And - as long as there is not a sight or sound to further alarm the deer - it may not spook.
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#2 Everyday Hunter

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Posted 30 May 2008 - 07:53 PM

This raises a question in my mind: Do predators ever urinate in a buck scrape? I don't know the answer to that, but knowing the way canines mark their territory with urine, my bet is that they do.

Steve
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#3 TRMichels

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 10:10 AM

I don't doubt that predators might urinate in a deer scrape, but since predators have their own territorial boundaries (on which they mark their territory by either urintating or defecting), separate from deer boundaries, it is unlikely that they would regularly urinate or defecate in deer scrapes.

God bless,

T.R.
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#4 Everyday Hunter

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Posted 09 June 2008 - 07:07 PM

I don't doubt that predators might urinate in a deer scrape, but since predators have their own territorial boundaries (on which they mark their territory by either urintating or defecting), separate from deer boundaries, it is unlikely that they would regularly urinate or defecate in deer scrapes.


Maybe. What you say has the ring of common sense. But I think it's very likely that they will routinely urinate in a buck scrape, because canines often urinate where other animals have urinated.

But common sense doesn't make it true. Sometimes, two thoughts that both seem to make common sense can contradict each other. My common sense take on that is that canines are expressing "one-upmanship," because when they mark their territory, they don't empty their bladders. They just spray a little and save some for the next spot. As you say, any urine soon deteriorates and leaves just an ammonia smell. So, I'm not sure human, canine, cat, or anything else really matters.

You apparently have far more experience in this than I do, and I definitely don't have the credentials to contradict you. But I do know that several outstanding whitetail hunters, people with national reputations, routinely urinate in buck scrapes. Their experience aligns with the study you cite -- that human urine is a positive attractant to deer. I remember reading that study, and if I remember correctly the positive response to human urine was only slightly higher than it was to the other samples, and that all non-deer urine samples together produced more positive responses than deer urine. So, I don't see why you conclude that it's a curiosity response. If it's a curiosity response, then why wouldn't you consider all responses to non-deer urine to be curiosity responses?

I suspect that shortly after it is deposited on the ground, the ammonia becomes strong enough that urine is urine to a deer, and that a rut-crazed whitetail likely just assumes it's competition and he has a response when he senses an invader -- or when he senses something he likes.

Steve
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#5 TRMichels

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Posted 10 June 2008 - 05:41 AM

You ask a good question, "If it's a curiosity response, then why wouldn't you consider all responses to non-deer urine to be curiosity responses? "

The answer is simple:

I (personally) don't believe I ever said that I don't consider all responses to non-deer urine a curiosity response - because I consider most responses of deer to any smell - as a curiostiy response.

If a deer's survival depends on its knowing its habitat intimately (which we can assme is true) then it needs to be curious enough to investigate "new" things in its habitat, be it a new sight, scent or sound. I suspect that since scrapes have information (around in and above them) - about the sex, age and social level of other deer in the area, that bucks in particular would "check" them, which they can do, and often do, from downwind (remember that a deer's sense of smell is about 1000 times better than that of a human).

As to predators urinating in a deer scrape, you appear to make an assumpition, which may not be supported by either personal observation or scientific research - that being that they employ "one-upsmanship" when they urinate as a territorial or dominance marking scent; and that it may apply to them urinating in a deer scrape.

Studies on wolves show that they do use this technique, but that they do it at previously marked areas of their own making, or made by others of a neigboring or invading animal - primarily of their own species, or of another canid - that they either want to inform of their presence - or intimidate. Wolves will attack and kill coyotes and foxes, coyotes will attack and kill foxes.

I have never seen, nor have I ever read or heard, of an instance of a canid employing urination as "one-upsmanship" in a deer scrape. Since a deer is not a predator, but a prey species, it seems contrary to the idea of "one-upsmanship" by a predator (to urinate in a deer scrape), because it does not have to do with "one-uping" another predator. In fact, the scents associated with the predator (body odor) may alarm the deer, which would not be of any benefit to the predator - but may be a detractor to the predator.

But, as you state, non-deer scents in a scrape have been shown to cause deer to "check" the area of the scrape. However, neither canid nor felid urine were used during that particular study.

I personally would not use either - because the deer might associate the urine with the "body odor" of a known predator - and avoid the area.

And yes, at some point (days at the most), all urine turns to ammonia.

God bless,

T.R.
T.R. Michels
TRMichels@yahoo.com

Trinity Mountain Outdoors E-Magazine
T.R. Michels Guide Service
Whitetail / Turkey / Elk / Waterfowl University & Guide School
Trinity Mountain Outdoor Adventures Natural History Tours & Photography Trips
Trinity Mountain Outdoor Adventures Natural History & Travel E-Magazine
T.R.'s Tips Talk Forum
Outdoor Photography
Christian Witness
www.TRMichels.com


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