Thursday, March 8, 2012
One customer calls them “rats with wings.” Other golfers have complained about the poo on the cart paths and the bald patches on the lawn. So Rancho Cañada had 300 American coots, aka “mudhens,” killed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service in February.
“This notion of poisoning the birds—it’s been a struggle for us,” says Bob Costa, vice president director of golf course maintenance. “The grass will regrow, but the amount of excrement on the golf course is unacceptable to our customers.”
Rancho’s coot population exceeded 2,000 this winter, Costa says. After unsuccessful attempts to herd them off the grass with sprinklers and a dog, Rancho obtained a depradation permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, then hired the USDA to do the dirty work.
Eric Covington, supervisor of the agency’s San Luis Obispo district, personally killed several coots with a shotgun. But most were tranquilized with baited cornmeal, euthanized and buried.
He says the unusually high coot population is the result of back-to-back wet years followed by a dry year. “They’re going where there’s water,” he says. “We’ve received more calls on coot damage by golf courses, parks and homeowner associations than I’ve had in 10 years.”
Costa expects the remaining coots to continue on their migration by late March. “We just kinda let them do their thing,” he says.