Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS)

Incidents of suspected poisoning of animals by pesticides in Scotland are investigated. The aim of the scheme is to identify any adverse effects on non-target animals that might arise from the approved use of pesticides. If the data gathered by the scheme, and sister schemes throughout the UK, indicate a particular problem, then the registration status of the pesticide concerned is subject to review by the UK regulatory body. The data are also used in the validation and improvement of risk assessments for existing and new compounds.

In cases where there is evidence to indicate either the misuse or the deliberate abuse of pesticides, the results of investigations may also be used in the enforcement of legislation affording protection to animals.

Wildlife Management staff undertake WIIS field investigations involving the suspected illegal use of fumigation products, and provide advice to statutory authorities, such as the Police, on the legalities of traps and snares.

Annual reports on animal poisoning in Scotland from 1999 to 2012 can be downloaded from the Animal Poisoning Reports page.

Research Activities

There is an on-going requirement to develop and refine high quality analytical methodologies to meet demands associated with the introduction of new pesticides, to deal effectively with any concerns relating to existing pesticides, and to make analytical efficiency gains. 

Find out more about the analytical techniques currently available.

See also the list of Pesticide & Chemical Analysis papers and poster presentations.

How To Report Pesticide Incidents in Scotland

Information on how to go about reporting pesticide incidents

Animals (Wildlife & Pets)

Incidents of suspected poisoning of animals in Scotland involving;

  • Wild birds and mammals
  • Companion animals (pets, working animals)
  • Livestock
  • Bees and other pollinators ie beneficial insects
    • Suspected baits/suspicious substances

should be notified as soon as possible to WIIS-Scotland.

Contact Points
 

  • WIIS free phone number (0800 321 600).  This number is linked to SASA during working hours and out-of-hours mesages can be recorded.  Alternatively, email us at wiis-scotland@sasa.gov.scot
  • Scottish Government Rural Payments & Inspections Division (RPID) - Area Office
  • Police Scotland Wildlife Crime Liaison Officers
  • If you feel that you would rather remain anonymous, you can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Samples may be submitted to the scheme via

Useful Links

The Health and Safety Executive's Chemicals Regulations Division provides information on pesticides, biocides and WIIS UK.

Environmental contamination incidents in Scotland should be reported to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) Pollution Hotline 0800 80 70 60.

General information on reporting other types of pesticide incidents is available from HSE

Laboratory Investigations

Covering post mortem examinations and pesticide analysis

Post Mortem Examination

Post mortem examinations are undertaken by SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, a division of Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), and are an essential element of the investigation. Other causes of death that may be unrelated to possible exposure to a pesticide can be identified, eliminating the requirement for analysis. Alternatively evidence consistent with poisoning being the cause of death may be gained, and appropriate tissue samples taken for analysis

Pesticide Analysis

Field information is used together with the findings of the post mortem examination to determine the extent of any analytical investigation. Analytical techniques and equipment capable of identifying low levels of pesticides considered to present possible hazards to vertebrates or beneficial insects are employed. Multi-residue methods are employed where possible. Three methods are routinely used: covering a range of insecticides, fungicides and herbicides; anticoagulant rodenticides; chloralose, metaldehyde and strychnine. These are supplemented by compound-specific analytical methods as necessary. Residues identified are subject to rigorous confirmation criteria for acceptance. The laboratory operates to an internal quality system accredited to the ISO 17025 standard for testing laboratories by UKAS, with some of the above methods included in the scope of accreditation.

Our accreditation is limited to those activities described on our UKAS schedule of accreditation, see our [QA page].

Reporting and Follow-up Action

How SASA reports on incidents and what follow-up action might be taken

Field information and residue data are assessed, and where possible incidents of poisoning attributed to one of the following categories of use:

Approved use

Misuse

Abuse

Background

Veterinary use

Unspecified use

View more information about these categories on the WIIS Quarterly Reports page.

At the conclusion of each investigation, an individual incident report is issued to the person who initiated the incident and to partner organisations which participated in the investigation.

WIIS database

A database of incident information (1972 onwards) is maintained, and can be interrogated to provide information required by the Scottish Government and to service requests from other parties.

Requests for information should be directed to wiis-scotland@sasa.gov.scot.

Regulatory Action

Details of incidents where pesticides poisoning has been shown to be the cause are forwarded to the UK regulatory body, Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD). The data are included in annual reports on the poisoning of animals by pesticides, published by the Environmental Panel of the Advisory Committee on Pesticides. In addition CRD selectively request information from the WIIS database (1972 onwards) to support the ongoing approvals review process.

Enforcement Action

Incidents involving the suspected deliberate abuse of pesticides are actively pursued by Police Scotland supported by Scottish Government Rural Payments & Inspections Division (RPID) Staff and other partner organisations, with a view to eventual prosecution.

Information on pesticide legislation can be found on the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) website through the link in the Related Links box on the right of the screen.

WIIS Quarterly Reports

View WIIS Quarterly Reports

The results of incidents involving pesticides have, until now, been published quarterly in January, April, July and October.  It is now our intention that the results of all incidents reported to SASA will be available in a searchable spreadsheet which will still be published quarterly.  However, due to the nature of some incidents and the investigations relating to these it may be necessary to limit the information published.  We will publish updates to such cases as further information becomes available.  This new reporting format will replace SASA publication of the annual Pesticide Poisoning of Animals Report – A Report of Investigations in Scotland.

To make the information clearer all reported incidents will now identify whether the pesticides found in an incident were the principle cause of the incident or present at background or trace levels only.  The information will be presented as follows: 

Pesticide involved: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that these pesticide(s) were the principle cause.

Other Pesticides found: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that these pesticide(s) were present, but were at background or trace levels only.

The categories

From 2013 information regarding the categories will also be clearer and where appropriate provide additional information as it relates to the results.  For example, where the death of an animal is from a cause other than pesticide poisoning and the other cause is known this will be reported under additional information. The categories used to classify pesticide poisoning incidents are:

Approved use: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that the pesticide(s) involved were used in accordance with their conditions of authorisation. Where an animal is involved the cause of death has been established as pesticide poisoning.

Misuse: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that the pesticide(s) involved were not used in accordance with their conditions of authorisation.  The pesticides involved may have been used carelessly or accidently but there was no indication of any intention to deliberately harm wildlife or other animals. Where an animal is involved the cause of death has been established as pesticide poisoning.

Abuse: An investigation into the circumstances of the case concluded that the pesticide(s) involved had been used in breach of their authorisation conditions and that this has been done with the deliberate intent of harming or attempting to harm wildlife or other animals. Where an animal is involved the cause of death has been established as pesticide poisoning.

Unspecified: An investigation into the circumstances of the case could not establish where the pesticide may have come from and therefore if the pesticide(s) involved were used in accordance with their conditions of authorisation; if the pesticide had been misused or whether or not there was a deliberate intention to harm wildlife or other animals. Where an animal is involved the cause of death has been established as pesticide poisoning.

Unknown: The cause of death has not been established as pesticide poisoning; an investigation into the circumstances of the case could not establish a cause of harm or death and found no evidence of the involvement of pesticides.

It is not always possible to establish that pesticides are involved in a case reported under the scheme; this may be because samples are not available for chemical analysis or because the results of analysis are inconclusive.  Where a case is classified as unknown and this was due to a problem with the availability or quality of samples this will be reported under additional information.

Other cause: The cause of death has not been established as pesticide poisoning; an investigation into the circumstances of the case found no evidence of the involvement of pesticides and was able to attribute another probable cause.

Where a case is accepted into the scheme and another cause of death is identified it is less likely that samples will be tested for the full range of chemical analyses, although analysis may still be undertaken in cases where pesticides are strongly suspected.  Where a case is classified as “Other cause” the cause of death will be identified as far as possible and will be reported under additional information. Other causes include trauma (road traffic accidents, shooting, etc.), disease or starvation.

Not applicable: An investigation into the circumstances of the case was not able to establish a link to pesticide use.  No wildlife or other animals were involved and any suspected baits or other samples contained no detectable pesticide residues.

Veterinary use: Where it is established that veterinary products are involved in a case. These cases are not formally included in the WIIS scheme but are recorded as some actives substances in veterinary products are also found in pesticides.  Cases involving veterinary products are categorised separately under the scheme and their use is not classified into abuse, misuse, approved use or unspecified use.

Species or Samples involved:  The species or samples that are collected or identified as involved in the case.  Samples collected and analysed under the scheme include the bodies of wildlife and animals, which may be sent for post mortem and associated tests, tissue and other samples sent for chemical analysis, and samples of baits and suspicious substances.  Samples also include beneficial insects (bees) which may be assessed for disease and analysed for pesticide residues.  All available information, including the result of the analysis of samples, is taken into account in assigning cases to a category.

For results prior to 2013 information will continue to be present in the old format as follows:

Approved use: a pesticide is used in accordance with its conditions of authorisation

Misuse: the product has not been used according to the conditions of its authorisation, but often just carelessly or accidently, without the intention of harming animals

Abuse: a pesticide has been deliberately used in an illegal manner to poison, or to try to poison animals

Background residues: residues of pesticides found but levels are probably not indicative of lethal poisoning

Unspecified use: the cause of death was uncertain or the incident could not be classed as being in one of the other categories

Veterinary products: Incidents arising from veterinary use are not included in the scheme