A study of organophosphorus (OP) insecticide exposure was conducted on a declining population of ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) associated with agricultural lands at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge (TLNWR) during the summers of 1990a??92. Findings at TLNWR were compared with a nearby pheasant population at Lower Klamath National Wildlife Refuge (LKNWR) not subjected to intensive farming or OP insecticide applications. Direct toxicity of anticholinesterase (antiChE) compounds (in this case methamidophos) killed 2 young pheasants (91 and 92% brain acetylcholinesterase [AChE] inhibition), but no deaths of adult radio-equipped hens were ascribed to direct insecticide intoxication. However, within 20 days postspray of OP insecticides, 68% (28 of 41) of the adult pheasants collected at TLNWR were exposed to antiChE insecticides, and exhibited brain AChE inhibition of 19a??62%, with 15% (6 of 41) showing >55% brain AChE inhibition. The lack of radio-equipped hens dying was unexpected because >50% brain AChE inhibition has been frequently used as a diagnostic tool for evaluating cause of death from antiChE insecticides. No young were radio-equipped, so the extent of the effects of insecticide exposure on the survivorship of young was unknown. It is concluded that insecticide exposure was not the major factor impacting the pheasant population (see Grove et al., in press), although some young were acutely intoxicated. However, the loss of insects killed by insecticide use may have contributed to food shortages of young pheasants, indirectly influencing survival.
Additional publication details
Declining ring-necked pheasants in the Klamath Basin, California: I. Insecticide exposure