Doramectin is one of several endectocide compounds widely used to treat nematode and arthropod pests affecting cattle. Insecticidal residues in dung of endectocide-treated cattle can reduce numbers of dung-breeding insects. Concerns have been raised that use of endectocides may adversely affect birds that rely on dung-breeding insects as food. However, these concerns have not been specifically addressed in previous studies. We performed two studies to collectively assess whether doramectin adversely affects burrowing owls (Athene cunicularia Molina), which are listed as “Endangered” in Canada. In the first study, insect emergence was monitored from dung of cattle treated with a recommended topical dose of doramectin. Experiments replicated in each of 3 yr showed residues reduce the number of insects developing in dung of cattle treated up to 16 wk previously. In the second study, we identified prey items from regurgitated pellets collected at 206 burrowing owl nests in southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada. A total of 50 213 prey items were identified, of which 90% were invertebrates. Beetles (Coleoptera) comprised 54% of the total prey items, followed next in abundance by grasshoppers (Acrididae, 20%) and crickets (Gryllidae, 16%). Of the beetles, 1 381 specimens were identified as breeding in dung (mainly species of Aphodius, Canthon, Onthophagus). The dung beetles comprised an estimated 2.8% of the total prey items or 0.1% of total prey biomass. Results of the first study validate initial concerns that doramectin use can reduce numbers of insects breeding in dung of treated cattle. Results of the second study show reliance of burrowing owls on dung beetles is sufficiently low that use of doramectin on cattle is unlikely to appreciably affect the food supply of co-occurring burrowing owls.
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Vol. 61 • No. 5