Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version

September 1968


Budding wildlife biologists, whether they wind up in research, management or administration, start out with one attribute in common. They are idealists. It is idealism to be sure, that quickly becomes tempered, if not blunted, by the realities of working for worthwhile, even essential conservation goals in an in-different and frequently hostile environment. For some, the conflict of ideals vs reality is too much and they move on to other, probably more lucrative occupations. Still others, blessedly few in number, lose their ideals completely, become apathetic toward wildlife goals and devolve into that most pitiable of human specimens, the bureaucratic drone. Most of us, however, become inured though never wholly reconciled to frustrating reality and continue to work for the perpetuation and improvement of the wildlife resource. What have these homilies to do with chemical bird control? Simply that in the course of intensive, multifaceted effort to find a solution, or solutions to the bird control problem we wildlifers have tended to overlook a harsh reality. Our approach to the problem, while eminently practical in methodology, is largely idealistic in nature. We have been assigned a vexing problem, that of bird depredations on agricultural production. Qualified personnel have been selected, still others have elected, to work on the problem. Theirs is both opportunity and challenge; opportunity to provide relief to agriculture and challenge to do so without damage to the basic wildlife resource. Theirs is possibly the most difficult assignment in wildlife conservation today. When they succeed, they will deserve high praise and plaudits. So much for idealism, now on to some realities! I grant that there are realities aplenty in bird control and that most are recognized as such. There is the reality of significant bird damage to corn, rice, sunflowers, fruit and other crops. There is the reality of farmers, individually and collectively, petitioning Congress for help, a movement that resulted in a greatly expanded program in pest bird research and management. The harshest reality of all, in my view, is the fact that there are extant in the marketplace today a number of chemical tools which, if applied diligently at roosts and other habitats, could alleviate and possibly eliminate bird depredation problems in short order. Let's tick off a few: endrin, parathion, phorate, TEPP and fenthion. We could extend the list to great length but there is no need. The point is that there are many readily available pesticides that are highly toxic to bird life. If applied to birds, or bird habitat in sufficient concentrations, spectacular decimation would result.