, Volume 15, Issue 2, pp 149-157

Wildlife in some areas of New Mexico and Texas accumulate elevated DDE residues, 1983

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Abstract

Over the last decade, data gathered by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service's National Contaminant Biomonitoring Program have identified an area of elevated DDE contamination in portions of New Mexico and Texas. Extensive wildlife sampling in 1983 confirmed that DDE, the major metabolite of the insecticide DDT, was present at high concentrations in wildlife at selected sites in the Rio Grande and Pecos River drainages. DDE in carcasses ranged up to 47 ppm (wet weight) in western kingbirds (Tyrannus verticalis), 35 ppm in house sparrows (Passer domesticus), 46 ppm in Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis), and 104 ppm in whiptail lizards (Cnemidophorus spp.). DDE was also detected in gut contents from western kingbirds at some of the highest concentrations ever reported, ranging up to 21 ppm in proventricular samples. An average of 40% of the eggs of black-crowned night-herons (Nycticorax nycticorax) from two sites along the Pecos River in New Mexico had DDE levels (≥8 ppm) that have been associated in other studies with impaired reproduction. In contrast, wintering mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) and American coots (Fulica americana) from the study area did not accumulate elevated DDE levels. DDE in wildlife samples at control sites (nonagricultural areas) was either absent or averaged less than 0.35 ppm.

Collectively, these data provide evidence that there is major DDE contamination of several vertebrate species in portions of the Rio Grande and Pecos River drainages, but whether the contamination is recent or residual was not determined. Apparently, the source was not DDE contamination present in dicofol (4-chloro-a-(4-chlorophenyl)-a-(trichloromethyl) benzenemethanol); neither dicofol nor its metabolite,p,p'-dichlorobenzophenone, were detected in wildlife carcasses (0.1 ppm detection limit) or proventricular contents (0.01 ppm detection limit) of western kingbirds.