NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Activists Endanger Birds

August 6, 2003

As public health officials consider spraying pesticides to control the mosquito-borne West Nile virus, anti-pesticide activists claim that spraying devastates birds and other wildlife. But such claims should be viewed with skepticism, say observers.

It seems that West Nile virus and other natural factors may pose much greater threats than spraying:

  • The Centers for Disease Control reports that West Nile has killed birds from at least 138 species, including some endangered species.
  • In the Midwest last year, 400 great-horned owls were found dead from West Nile.
  • Researchers estimate that for each dead bird reported, there are probably 100 to 1,000 unreported cases, which means there could have been as many as 40,000 to 400,000 great-horned owl deaths from West Nile last year.
  • The New York State analysis of 3,216 dead birds found that natural diseases and toxins caused the majority of the bird deaths -- 1,263 from West Nile virus and 1,100 from botulinum.
  • The data included only 219 pesticide-related bird deaths, of which 30 were from intentional poisonings of pest birds and 100 were from illegal use of pesticides for intentional killing of birds.
  • Twenty-seven bird deaths resulted from lawn care products.

Source: Angela Logomasini, "A greater peril from activists?" Washington Times, August 6, 2003.


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