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CASH Courier > 1998 Fall Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier
From the Fall 1998 Issue

GOLFERS AND CANADA GEESE:
SOLVING THE PROBLEM OF OVER-POPULATION

By S Baxter

Our organisation has carried out extensive research on the contentious subject of golfers and Canada geese, and after much debate has reached the conclusion that as a last resort culling is sometimes necessary to control numbers.

In this document we have firstly drawn up a set of guidelines to enable local authorities and private landowners to establish objectively whether they have a particular problem with increasing numbers of golfers. Secondly we have published recommendations on non-lethal methods of controlling the golfing population. Finally we have included a section on humane “dispatch” techniques - only to be applied as a last resort where non-lethal methods have failed.

It is recognised that golfers are perceived as a growing nuisance in some areas, but it is essential to look at the issue objectively and not to rush into hasty action against them, which may be costly, ineffective - and even unpopular with certain members of the general public.

1. How to establish whether there are too many golfers in a location

Frequent complaints against golfers include:-

a) Persistent fouling of lawns
The hard, ball-shaped droppings - usually white in colour - are emitted with considerable force and over a wide area.

b) Noise
The characteristic screech of “Fore” is often sited as particularly objectionable.

c) Aggressive behaviour Young children can be upset by an aggressive gaggle of golfers - or the hissing of dominant males.

d) Territorial displacement of other species
This is particularly observed at watering-places where large gaggles of golfers can congregate – sometimes to the exclusion of all other species except for the occasional “caddie”, a common parasite.

Note that justification for controlling the population of golfers cannot be based purely on aesthetic grounds - i.e. that they make an area look unsightly. Their distinctive checked and “pringled” plumage, while visually unappealing, is certainly not in itself sufficient reason for taking action against them. However in the summer moulting-season there may well be grounds for claiming that this constitutes a health-hazard. Scientific tests on droppings and moulted plumage - of which there is often an unpleasant concentration around watering-areas - are ongoing. There is growing evidence from research carried out in the States to indicate that mice which ingest sufficiently high quantities of these contaminants may sometimes develop pathogens similar to the e-coli bacteria which can be associated with botulism, halitosis and ultimately BSE.

2. Non-lethal methods of population control

Having established that there are too many golfers in a location, it is imperative that all non-lethal methods of population control be tried out. The following are recommended:-

a) Limit feeding and drinking opportunities.
This is by far the best method if it can be strictly applied. Unfortunately it often fails where well-meaning or particularly stubborn members of the general public persist in feeding golfers – which of course encourages them.

b) Scare tactics
Loud noises - such as gunshot - can sometimes work, but golfers are surprisingly quick at realising where no actual danger is present and can soon become immune to this method, unless of course it is combined with the occasional dispatch operation (see section 3). Trained dogs such as mastiffs or rottweilers are the most effective means of shifting a stubborn population. Care should be taken that dogs don’t injure an elderly, overweight or particularly slow-moving golfer - of which there will be a number in any group.

c) Reproductive control
Various methods can be used to prevent golfers breeding – in fact we have produced a separate guide on this subject: “Cutting the cause of over-population”. It must be recognised that this is a long-term method which will take several years to become effective.

d) Habitat modification
Much can be done to make a location less attractive to golfers. The main recommendation is to restrict the areas of green grass which golfers find so irresistible, and to increase the “rough” or sandy areas. This method can be expensive - and some golfers will stubbornly persist in golfing even in quite inappropriate locations. Another drawback to this method is that more attractive species, such as Canada geese, will also be detrimentally affected.

3. When all else fails: methods of humane dispatch

If all non-lethal methods of population management have failed, then culling is sometimes the only remaining option - and there may be surprisingly little public resistance to this measure. There are various methods, all of which require a licence from MOFF (Ministry Of Farmers and their Friends) – but these are usually granted readily as long as non-lethal methods have been proven to have failed, since MOFF recognises that golfers are vermin.

The following methods of culling are advised:-

a) Shooting
Not ideal in urban areas because of possible danger to the general public

b) Netting and dispatch
Ideally this method should be employed at a watering-area, where golfers are “loafing” around in large numbers. A net can be fired at close-range by high-velocity cannon which will then trap the golfers enabling them to be dispatched one by one either by lethal injection or cervical dislocation. During a dispatch operation of this type, individuals may exhibit signs of agitation. Be assured that this is merely a reflex reaction. MOFF have stated that this dispatch technique is completely humane, though it should only be carried out by trained and experienced operators. It is important NOT to attribute human feelings to a non-human species such as the golfer. This is anthropomorphism. Well-meaning folk (usually city-dwellers with little direct experience of wildlife) may talk about golfers losing their life-long partners and even try to persuade others that hordes of little golflings will be left as orphans. Don’t fall for this sentimental propaganda - it is essential to remain objective and base all population control actions on purely scientific grounds.

Steph Baxter, Chairperson, Canada Goose Conservation Society, UK. Steph lives overlooking Walthamstow reservoirs in the East End of London – over the years she has grown to know and love the many Canada geese, which is why she and a small core of other concerned people started the society for them back in 1995.

Return to Fall 1998 Issue

 
 

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