Arizona Wildlife Conservation Strategy

10. Pollution

Pollution in its many forms is a threat to wildlife and human health. Household sewage, urban water waste, mine tailings, and agricultural runoff make their way to aquatic systems and impact water quality, degrade habitat, and in some cases make it unsuitable for fish and wildlife and unsafe for humans. 

Rodenticides and lead-based ammunition pose mortality threats to many raptor species. Although the number of raptor deaths associated with secondary poisonings is not well known, many individual mortality events have been documented. Non-lethal levels of rodenticides and lead may lead to a variety of survival, reproductive, and developmental issues.

Illegal dumping is a completely preventable threat that exposes humans and wildlife to chemicals and toxins and can result in trash entering waterways and degrading water quality. In addition, the quality of recreational activities is reduced when natural areas are overrun with trash and debris. 

Discarded or lost fishing line and tackle is also a threat to wildlife, especially riparian birds as they collect it for nest material (Hunt et al. 1992; Beatty et al. 1998). Other wildlife species may become entangled while swimming or visiting lake shorelines and they can ingest material while feeding on dead fish. Recovering lost fishing line when possible can greatly reduce this threat to wildlife.

Wildlife are negatively impacted by pollution in multiple ways. Directly ingesting or absorbing chemicals or feeding on species that have accumulated toxins can lead to increased physiological stress, susceptibility to disease, pathogens, and parasites, and mortality. Their habitat is also altered and degraded when chemicals and waste are transported to natural environments. 

This is a conservation challenge that each of us contributes to in some form every day. By considering the potential impacts of our actions and choosing environmentally-friendly alternatives where possible, we can all play a role in reducing the impact of pollution to wildlife and natural communities and improve the quality of life for all Arizonans.