By Pat Gross, USGA
It has been a bad winter in the Southwest for loose impediments. In particular, the “loose impediments” left behind on golf courses by coots and Canada geese. In recent weeks, many golf courses have reported high populations of coots and geese, along with a significant increase in the amount of excrement deposited on turf areas - a very messy situation for golfers trying to play the game and maintenance personnel attempting to mow and manage the turf.
Although superintendents in the region have been moderately successful discouraging coot and goose activity with various non-lethal harassment techniques, Jim Ferrin at Sun City Roseville (California) enlisted the help of the entire community to address the problem. Over the years, Jim and his staff tried various methods to discourage coots and geese, yet the results were limited and temporary because the staff did not have enough time throughout the day and into the evening to keep the birds moving off the property. Fortunately, the local residents had the time and were happy to coordinate their dog walking activities as part of a community goose and coot patrol. The first step was amending a local leash ordinance to allow the dogs to run freely and chase the birds. Next, Jim set up a meeting for interested volunteers to give them background and training on the goals of their coordinated goose and coot control efforts, which included allowing dogs to chase the geese, the use of remote controlled model boats in the lakes, and the occasional use of water cannons. A few of the volunteers also were trained to safely use a hand-held green laser to disturb the geese and coots in the morning and evening, which has been a very effective program at golf courses in the Pacific Northwest and is commonly used by airports to discourage bird activity. Two follow-up meetings are conducted each season to share information and adjust the program as necessary.
Maintenance practices are modified during coot and goose season to help discourage bird activity, including modifying the environment by keeping the turf as short as possible in prime feeding areas, constant monitoring of bird populations, and enhancing habitat for natural predators such as bobcats.
The community effort has been a huge success at Sun City Roseville. The original population of more than 500 geese and coots has been reduced dramatically and there are far fewer “loose impediments” on the golf course. In addition, the program has improved the relationship between the golf course maintenance staff and the local residents as they work together for a common cause.