June 16, 2004

critter-repellant. I was going to post this a month or so ago, when I first bought my jar of powdered fox urine, but forgot all about it until today. I wonder what reminded me... How do you suppose Brooklyn squirrels know what fox pee smells like, and that they should keep clear?

The best thing about this is the helpful warning on the label: "Not for human consumption".

  • Even when Urine the pink, The fox and vixen Both do stink, So out with your hanky, Quick, quick, quick, Ere the skanky Make you sick.
  • IANAEvolutionaryBiologist, but my completely uneducated guess is that the brains of squirrels might have developed in such a way as to throw up red flags at whatever smells resemble canid pee. Sort of like how human beings generally react very negatively to snakes and spiders, even when we're consciously aware they're harmless. Right?
  • no foxes in Brooklyn?
  • IWOTAEB,OUAT,ACRM*, but Hlewagast's suggestion that canid urine is a danger signal to prey-type animals rings pretty true - especially when you consider that foxes use urine (amongst other things) to scent mark valuable hunting territory. This has been going on since long before foxes were foxes and squirrels were squirrels. Thus, the fairly reasonably behavioural adaptation "smells like fox piss = oh piss, it's a fox!". Having said that, the more prey animals adopt this behaviour, the less valuable scent marking becomes (benefits of keeping rivals away from prey v. downside of driving prey animals away). Each population presumably finds its own equilibrium levels of scent marking/reaction to scent marking, dependant on the context of the ecosystem, but based on a more fundamental basic set of common instincts. Anyway, presumably the reason that powdered fox urine works is that it's incredibly concentrated, and so triggers the strong, deep-down buried reaction "smells like the strongest fox piss ever = oh, fuck, a 10,000-ton Mecha-FireFox from the future!" that lurks in even the bravest of squirrels. That's my theory. *I Was Only Tangentially An Evolutionary Biologist, Once Upon A Time, And Can't Remember Much
  • Which I just noticed is all pretty much said in the link... only in more of a hard drinkin', tough livin', varmint-trappin' backwoodsman kinda way.