National Pesticide Information Center



Protecting Wildlife from Pesticides


Many people enjoy watching animals visit their property and want to protect their local wildlife. Pesticides can be great tools for controlling pests like weeds, insects and rodents, but they can also harm wildlife if they are used carelessly or improperly. You can reduce the risk of harm to wildlife while using pesticides by choosing to practice integrated pest management (IPM). Your county extension agent may be able to help you learn about IPM tactics for controlling pests around your home.

To minimize any harm to wildlife when using pesticides, keep these tips in mind:

  • If you choose to use a pesticide, always read the label carefully before each use. Pay particular attention to the "Environmental Hazards" section of the label for information about protecting wildlife.
  • Adopt an IPM approach, which includes non-chemical methods such as mechanical barriers, mulching, and habitat modification as well as using the least toxic products available.
  • Consider what will happen to the pesticide once it is released, including how long it will last and its potential to move from the area.
  • Don't apply pesticides when it is raining or about to rain. This helps to prevent the pesticide from being washed into storm drains, soils, lakes, ponds or streams.
  • Minimize pesticides in water bodies by leaving untreated areas (buffer strips) along waterways and drainage areas. Sweep excess granules off sidewalks and driveways back onto lawns to keep them from being washed into storm drains.
  • When possible, avoid using pesticides in areas where animals are active or raising young. For example, you can minimize hummingbird exposure by spraying flowering plants before they bloom
  • Because many liquid pesticides pose the greatest risk of exposure when they are still wet, try to apply them when you are sure there will be adequate drying time before animals may encounter treated areas.
  • Place items that attract wildlife such as bird feeders and baths away from areas where you regularly use pesticides.
  • Birds can easily mistake granular pesticides for food. Applying granular products when birds are not active and watering the granules to dissolve them can help reduce the risk to birds.
  • Rodent baits are often formulated with food like peanut butter and molasses to attract the pest. Use bait stations or place these products where wildlife cannot get to them.
  • Never dispose of any pesticide in storm drains, sewer systems, or waterways. When you clean application equipment, make sure the rinse water is also disposed of properly.
  • Store all pesticides properly, out of the reach of wildlife, pets and children.

If you have questions about pesticides and their risk to wildlife, or any pesticide-related topic, please call NPIC at 1-800-858-7378 (8:00am - 12:00pm PST), or email us at npic@ace.orst.edu.

Additional Resources:

Protecting Wildlife

Protecting the Environment

Protecting Water

Last updated April 1, 2015