Pesticides and wildlife


The use of pesticides can negatively impact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's (Service) trust resources, including fisheries resources, threatened and endangered species, migratory birds and their habitats. Pesticides include products, such as insect repellants, weed killers, disinfectants and swimming pool chemicals, which are designed to prevent, destroy, repel or reduce pests such as insects, mice and other animals, weeds, fungi, bacteria and viruses. Pesticides are used in nearly every home, business, farm, school, hospital and park in the United States and are found almost everywhere in our environment. In fact, recent studies of major rivers and streams documented that 96% of all fish, 100% of all surface water samples and 33% of major aquifers contained one or more pesticides at detectable levels[1]. Pesticides were identified as one of the 15 leading causes of impairment for streams included on States' Clean Water Act section 303(d) lists of impaired waters. Pesticides have also been identified as a potential cause of amphibian declines and deformities and as one of a number of potential causes of pollinator species' declines and declines of other beneficial insects.

Management of Potential Harm

By their very nature, most pesticides pose some risk of harm to humans, animals or the environment because they are designed to kill or adversely affect living organisms. Significant fish and bird kills have resulted from the legal application of pesticides, such as the 1991 death of more than one million fish in Louisiana[2]. However, at the same time, pesticides are useful to society because they are used to control or kill potential disease-causing organisms and insects, weeds and other pests. The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act requires that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) evaluate pesticides before they can be sold and used in the United States. The EPA's Office of Pesticide Programs is responsible for ensuring that a pesticide will not pose unreasonable adverse effects to human health and the environment. In addition, the EPA must ensure that use of pesticides it registers will not result in harm to species listed as endangered or threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. To prevent and minimize the impacts of pesticides on fish, wildlife, and plants, the Service provides technical assistance and consults with the EPA during the registration and reregistration of pesticides. In addition, in 1988, the EPA's Endangered Species Protection Program (ESPP) was initiated. This program relies on cooperation between the Service, EPA Regions, States and pesticide users. As part of this program, the EPA has created bulletins for individual counties within the United States, which can be accessed from the ESPP web site, that provide information on pesticide use limitations intended to minimize impacts to threatened and endangered species.

Useful Links

Literature Cited

  • ^ Gilliom, Robert, J. 1999. Pesticides in the Nation's Water Resources. U.S. Geological Survey. Water Environment Federation Briefing Series Presentation. Capitol Building, Washington D.C. March 19, 1999.
  • ^ Williams, Ted. 1993. Hard News on "Soft" Pesticides. AUDUBON. March-April.


(2008). Pesticides and wildlife. Retrieved from


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