Wildlife Stewardship

Wildlife Stewardship and Pesticide Management

Often there is more than one product or management practice available to control a particular pest. But, ideally, the decision to purchase a pesticide should be based on more than a comparison of cost and performance among product choices. An important consideration is a review of the various pesticide labels for hazards to wildlife; users should select a product that is efficacious and presents the least potential for hazard to nontarget wildlife in the area to be treated.

The decision to protect wildlife and practice pesticide stewardship goes hand and glove with any purchasing decision. For wildlife protection and product stewardship to occur simultaneously, special attention has to be given to the biological and environmental uniqueness of the application site, and to any adjoining wildlife habitats. The decision to use a pesticide implies that the user is willing to follow precisely all instructional and precautionary language, and accepts the label as a legal document; yet the label cannot predict and give precise advice for every situation where that pesticide may be applied. The pesticide user should exercise common sense, and be alert to wildlife that inhabits the application site and surrounding areas.

Users also can supplement label directions with additional measures beyond label guidelines to protect the integrity of a habitat and its corresponding wildlife populations.

Practical Suggestions to Benefit Wildlife

Seek the advice of wildlife, conservation, and pesticide professionals at universities, state and federal agencies, and private foundations for strategies to improve wildlife habitat, and for advice on the use of pesticides and alternative pest control strategies. Implementation of the management suggestions that follow will benefit wildlife and simultaneously allow for control of damaging insect, weed, and disease pests. Remember, with all of these suggestions the user must be consistent with the pesticide label.

Be Careful Around Natural Areas on Your Property

  • All wildlife need natural areas in which to feed, rest, reproduce, raise young, and take shelter. Create wildlife habitat by encouraging and promoting the growth of native vegetation. This also reduces mowing costs and saves time.
  • Select disease and insect-resistant trees and shrubs to plant on your property, thereby reducing the need for pesticide use.
  • Prevent wildlife poisonings by storing pesticides and wildlife feed separately.
  • Do not feed wildlife near pesticide storage and mixing areas.

Wildlife Will Benefit When You Understand and Follow Pesticide Labels

  • Keep wildlife habitats in mind when reading labels.
  • Compare labels and select highly specific products which pose reduced risks to non-target species. Read the label carefully and use the lowest effective rate.
  • Calibrate equipment carefully to assure that the pesticide is applied at labeled rates.
  • Ask the retail outlet for the Endangered Species Bulletin when indicated by the label, or contact federal and state agricultural and conservation agencies for bulletins.
  • Take heed of the label. The environmental and wildlife precautions on labels are based on scientific and regulatory actions. They must be followed. It’s the law, good business, and the right thing to do!
  • Consult state agricultural agency and Cooperative Extension Service educators for additional assistance on label clarification, or to determine potential pesticidal impacts on wildlife. Also, consult state natural resource agencies, natural heritage programs, and the Nature Conservancy for additional information about wildlife, native vegetation, and endangered species.

Be on the Alert for Wildlife Before and During Pesticide Applications

  • If you can identify areas that are frequented by wildlife­, especially flocks of birds­, avoid spraying near those areas, or, if possible, reduce the application rates.
  • Homeowners should search for bird and mammal nests prior to spraying fruit trees, shrubs, or lawns, then avoid spraying near those areas.
  • Investigate the use of alternative pest control tactics, mechanical, cultural, biological when available and practical (e.g., tillage, crop rotation, pest-resistant plants, natural predators, trapping).
  • Scouting and pest identification are critical components of wise pesticide use. To save money and reduce impacts on wildlife, apply pesticides only when pests are present at unacceptable levels. Your Cooperative Extension educator can provide guidelines.
  • Remember, it is important to guard against pesticide drift and runoff. Apply pesticides under low, directional wind conditions; and use adjuvants when appropriate. Use buffer zones of unsprayed crops or grass strips adjacent to important habitats to help protect wildlife.
  • Adjust application schedules to reduce the likelihood of runoff. Do not make pesticide applications when rain is imminent. Surface runoff may move some pesticides into ponds, streams, and wetlands inhabited by wildlife. In urban areas, such runoff may flow into storm drains leading directly to streams and rivers, without treatment. Moreover, a pesticide that is washed off is money lost.
  • Multiple pesticide applications may have cumulative effects, especially during breeding seasons. Reduce frequency of applications, when possible, and target each application to the specific site of the pest, instead of making broad applications over entire fields or lawns.
  • Control weeds and insects in home lawns and gardens by spot treating to reduce the amount of pesticide applied.
  • Where practical, eliminate the use of pesticides in and around field edges and corners, fence rows, set-aside acreage, nesting sites, vegetation near streams and wetlands, and areas that are dedicated to wildlife (except for spot treatment to control state-listed noxious weeds). Especially important are sensitive areas, such as endangered species habitats, native plant communities, and sinkholes.
  • Check the label for instructions on incorporating pesticide granules into the soil or watering them into turf: The product reaches the target pests more readily, and foraging birds are less likely to ingest granules.
  • Never spray leftover pesticides or wash off equipment near wetlands, rivers, streams, creeks, potholes, ponds, marshes, sinkholes, other wildlife habitats, or drains leading to these areas. Dispose of leftover pesticides in an approved manner as specified by the label.


Authored by Fred Whitford, et al.

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The above information is the property of Purdue University, reprinted from Pesticides and Wildlife, PP-30. All information on authors and disclaimers relative to the use of this information can be found at that address.

Topics Included in this Module