Mouse traps are fine if you are dealing with a few rodents but if there is a major infestation you need some heavy artillery such as bobcat pee. Mice, rats, rabbits and moles fear bobcats and for a very good reason. They can quickly become lunch! It is the law of the wild that prey avoids predator. But how? Scent can play a critical role. Predators usually mark their territory with urine and animals they prey upon learn to keep their distance from this fragrance. Most people who have a problem with mice don’t have access to a bobcat that can prowl around and take care of pesky rodents, but anyone can purchase bobcat pee. Spraying this is appropriate places will send the rodents scurrying away.
So, what is it in bobcat pee that rodents can actually smell? Thanks to Harvard Medical School’s Dr. Stephen Liberles, we now know. It’s a compound called phenylethylamine. Liberles found that a certain type of olfactory receptor in mice was strongly activated by bobcat urine. After separating the urine’s components, he was able to trace the activity to one specific compound, phenylethylamine. An interesting question then arose. Was this compound particular to bobcats or was it a universal predator product? There was only one way to find out. Collect urine from as many different animals as possible and analyze it for phenylethylamine content. Off Liberles’ students went to zoos to collect output from leopards, jaguars, lions as well as from herbivores like cows, giraffes and zebras. Undoubtedly a challenging task, especially when trying to get a giraffe to pee into a cup. Eventually they managed to collect urine from thirty eight species of predators and a variety of herbivores. All animals had some phenylethylamine in their urine with carnivores having by far the most. Lions and tigers had three thousand as much as the plant eaters.
To confirm that phenylethylamine was the active repellant, the researchers compared the effects of lion urine that contained the compound with urine that did not. This was quite easily done since an enzyme known as monoamine oxidase readily destroys phenylethylamine and can be added to urine. Rats and mice were clearly deterred by regular lion urine but not by the version that was devoid of phenylethylamine. There may be a whole new industry in the making here. Why bother buying real bobcat urine when a simple, readily made chemical can do the job? There’s some experimentation needed to find out how well this works and what concentrations are needed and whether it works for rodents other than mice. Maybe there’s no need to buy wolf pee to deter coyotes and moose, fox pee aginst squirrels and Muscovy ducks or coyote pee to fend of deer, raccoons and groundhogs. Maybe phenylethylamine will turn out to be one stop shopping against all these varmints.