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Pest Control: Keep Geese & Rodents Off the Course


Turf wars—What you need to know to stay ahead

Rodents. Deer. Geese. (Oh my!) There are several nuisance pests that pose a threat to well-maintained turf and grounds. Though they offer unique management challenges, if left unchecked, are detrimental to player expectations, game-play experience and can even pose health risks. Understanding more about these pests is the first step in implementing an effective defense. NOTE: Any trapping or extermination must be performed in accordance with any Federal, State or local regulations.

Types of Pests



Beaver damage is obvious even to the untrained eye. Flooding a fairway from a plugged-up drainage culvert is just the tip of the iceberg. Beavers can chew clean through trees, causing the trees to fall onto parts of the course. Blocking a single water source can raise water levels 6–7'. So how does one get rid of beavers? In almost all cases, nuisance beavers must be destroyed. Simply relocating the animal won't stop the damage, so beaver-removal permits generally specify that the animal should be exterminated.



Muskrats are essentially "little beavers"—they are aquatic and cause similar damage, but on a smaller scale. Muskrats are herbivores that go after new grass shoots, which are pulled from underneath, causing dead spots. Typically, muskrats burrow into the embankments of relatively still ponds and creeks. These tunnel systems can be extensive and will cave in under the weight of heavy mowers and other turf equipment. As with beavers, additional permits are usually needed if removal occurs outside the hunting/trapping season.


Mice and Small Rodents

In many cases, mice and chipmunks occupy plant arrangements and around the clubhouse/restaurant areas. There are a variety of methods to eliminate mice and small rodents, including poisons, snap traps, glue traps, live traps, multi-catch traps and electric traps—check them out at


Woodchucks and Skunks

Structures, including storage sheds, bathrooms and snack stands provide potentially undisturbed housing underneath their structures. Woodchucks (also known as groundhogs) dig holes several inches in diameter, typically free of leaves and other debris. Woodchucks are generally not a protected species, so they can be trapped or hunted at any time of the year without restriction.

Skunks are carnivorous with a diet consisting mostly of grubs and earthworms. They are fairly easy to lure into a trap with marshmallows or other sweet baits. Skunks generally do not spray if they are calm; approaching a cage slowly and then placing a towel, sheet or trap cover over the cage prevents spraying 99% of the time.

There are times when both woodchucks and skunks occupy the same den since skunks are nocturnal while woodchucks are diurnal, and they may never even see each other. Occasionally, opossums will take over a skunk den by getting inside, forcing the skunk to spray. Skunks don't like their own spray, and therefore will surrender the den to the opossum. So, don't be surprised if you have skunk odor and capture an opossum instead! Skunks (opossums, too) are usually not protected species, and like woodchucks, they don't have any restrictions as far as trapping and hunting.




Raccoons are notorious for damaging structures ... especially ripping open soffits. Also, they tend to hang around dumpsters, scavenging free meals. The mating season runs from April through May with a typical litter of about 3–4 kits born in May. During this time, the mom can often be seen during daylight hours as she now has several mouths to feed. This behavior, although normal, is often mistaken for diseases, such as rabies and distemper.

Raccoon dens contain large amounts of droppings and urine. If a den is within a clubhouse structure—especially one that serves food—there are obvious health concerns, and the offenders must be removed immediately.

Raccoons are easy to trap with any sweet or smelly bait, such as marshmallows, sugary pies or a can of tuna. Standard procedure calls for removing the mother first since she can be quite aggressive in defending her young. Once she is removed, the young can be taken with a grabber and placed in a cage or other box to be removed. Don't underestimate the young as they can also be aggressive when not handled properly.


Canada Geese

These birds nest along pond edges and remain there until it's time to fly south. They mate for life and form broods that return to the same location to reproduce.Golf courses are attractive sites for geese, because of the wide-open spaces that provide the ability to see predators from a distance and the proximity of ponds, which allow an easy escape. Add to this a food supply of lush grass, and you have the perfect goose-producing environment.

Geese create several problems, including greens turned over or tufts ripped out from their ever-present need for food. They track through freshly raked bunker sand and are notorious for honking, hissing and even attacking when they perceive a threat. The most significant problem is caused by the 1 to 2 lb. of droppings per day geese leave behind.

Under federal law, Canada geese are protected as migratory birds. Any alterations to their life cycle, from egg shaking to a cull, must be approved and permitted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services. There are many goose repellents available, including products that make loud noises to startle the geese, a variety of fencing and barriers and predator decoys.



Maintained ornamentals are just as vulnerable as manicured greens and fairways to the appetites and destructive potential of deer. Ultimately, the damage is from deer seeking out food sources, whether that involves trampling over greens and through bunkers, or attacking decorative trees, bushes and flower beds.

There are various deer prevention products available, including netting, sprays and granules that feature noxious scents, based on everything from blood and urine to garlic. There are also deer-resistant plants, including barberry, holly, juniper and more-colorful snapdragons, alyssum, iris and marigolds.