Cyclodiene insecticide, DDE, DDT, arsenic, and mercury contamination of big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) foraging at a Colorado Superfund site.Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 2001; 40(1):112-20AE
Rocky Mountain Arsenal (RMA) National Wildlife Area, near Denver, Colorado, is a Superfund site contaminated by past military and industrial uses, including pesticide manufacturing. From an ecosystem standpoint, the most critical contaminants at RMA are certain cyclodiene insecticides and metabolites, p,p'-DDE, p,p'-DDT, arsenic, and mercury. Bats are important ecosystem components that can be impacted by persistent contaminants because of their position in the food chain and their potential longevity and thus duration of exposure. Big brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus) were captured (n = 51) while foraging at RMA in the summers of 1997 and 1998 for determination of concentrations of contaminants of concern in carcasses, brains, and stomach contents. Adult females (n = 15) were also tracked by radiotelemetry to determine locations of nearest maternity roosts for sampling of guano for contaminant analysis and inspection for potential contaminant-induced mortality. Bats captured while foraging at RMA had measurable quantities of dieldrin and DDE in masticated insect samples from stomach contents and significantly higher concentrations of dieldrin, DDE, DDT, and mercury (juveniles) in carcasses than big brown bats (n = 26) sampled at a reference area 80 km to the north. Concentrations of dieldrin and DDE in brains of bats captured while foraging at RMA were also greater than in bats from the reference area, but not high enough to suggest mortality. Maximum concentrations of DDE, DDT, and cyclodienes in brains of big brown bats were found in adult males from RMA. Guano from the two closest known roosts had significantly higher concentrations of dieldrin, DDE, and mercury than guano from two roosts at the reference area. Dieldrin concentrations in carcasses of bats from RMA were highest in juveniles, followed by adult males and adult females. DDE concentrations in carcasses were lowest in adult females at both sites and highest in adult males at RMA. No contaminant-related mortality was obvious at the small maternity colonies near RMA. Big brown bats show higher contamination than most other mammals previously sampled at this site. Concentrations and proportions of samples with detectable residues of dieldrin in carcasses of big brown bats from RMA were similar to or exceeded reports for this species from elsewhere in the United States some 25 years ago, prior to or just following restrictions on use of this compound.