Love Vanilla? That's the Smell of Beaver Butt

An anal secretion is used to flavor foods, perfumes

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff

Posted Oct 4, 2013 4:15 PM CDT | Updated Oct 6, 2013 7:00 PM CDT
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(Newser) – Like vanilla ice cream? Don't read this—because the smell of a beaver's butt is key to at least some vanilla flavoring, Time reports. More specifically, beavers like to mark their territory with a musky, vanilla compound located in sacs between the pelvis and the base of the tail. Manufacturers have been extracting it for 80 years to flavor foods and perfumes—but it's tricky, because the compound often mixes with urine and anal gland secretions.

"You can milk the anal glands so you can extract the fluid," wildlife ecologist Joanne Crawford tells National Geographic. "You can squirt it out. It’s pretty gross." But she admits to sticking her nose in there and taking a whiff: "People think I’m nuts. I tell them, 'Oh, but it’s beavers; it smells really good.'" For the record, the slimey brown compound is extracted by anesthetizing a beaver and "milking" its nether regions. Ice cream sundae, anyone?

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