Fore!! Teed Off Golfers Say … “Scoot Coots!”

American coots and other waterfowl can become nuisances when they take up residency on golf courses and public parks (Photo by Carrie Wilson)

Question: I am a golf course superintendent on a municipal course located within the city of Pacific Grove. The front nine of our course is located within the neighborhoods of the city, but the back nine is located within sand dunes along the Pacific Ocean and the Monterey Bay. On the back nine we have a fresh water pond, and this year we have been inundated by coots. We easily have between 300 and 400 birds this year, up from about 30 to 40 last year. These coots are a terrible nuisance and they make a mess of the greens and the fairways, making it difficult for golfers to play some of the holes on our course. How we can either remove the birds or reduce their population using deterrents or through other means? (Daniel G., Pacific Grove)

Answer: Many courses in this area seem to be having the same problem. Coots are considered migratory birds and as such are regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. A permit from the FWS may be required for removal of coots. Additional information can be found on their website.

According to DFG Environmental Scientist Jeff Cann who oversees Monterey County, many courses in this area use trained dogs to haze waterfowl off the greens. Hazing coots is a legal activity but it is recommended that folks contact the professionals at the U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) for information. APHIS has extensive experience with hazing and removal of nuisance wildlife, such as coots.

Coot populations in our area fluctuate as new birds migrate through in fall and winter, and others leave the area. You can try applying mylar reflective tape streamers on poles in areas the coots use to scare them off, but the birds usually get used to this. In addition, these might be distracting to golfers.

Licensed hunters can harvest coots during the waterfowl hunting season, but discharging a firearm on the golf course is probably not legal in your area. Check with your local sheriff or police department to find out. Courses in more rural areas can employ this method of control and hazing.

Some airports use sonic devices with some success to repel a variety of types of birds. I am not aware of focused studies on using them to repel coots, however.

You can try contacting the USDA Wildlife Services offices for information on dealing with nuisance waterfowl or check with the FWS permitting office for additional assistance.

Bottom line, not much will help repel the coots as long as there is food (grass on the course) and water available for them to drink and relax on.


Shooting turkeys within city limits?
Question: We have about two dozen turkeys that are running around our local streets? If I use an air gun, can I legally kill (and eat) a turkey within the San Pablo/Richmond city limits? (Bob C.)

Answer: Turkeys can be taken under a hunting license with air rifles firing pellets and powered by compressed air or gas (0.177 caliber minimum for taking wild turkey), but I seriously doubt you can shoot anything within the city limits there! It depends on local city and county ordinances on discharging air rifles within the city limits. Fish and Game Section 3004(a) generally prohibits the discharge of any deadly weapon while hunting within 150 yards of a building without specific consent of the owner. Most city and county ordinances say, “No discharging of firearms or other dangerous weapons,” which would include air rifles. Check with the local Sheriff’s Department for the local policies to be sure.


Using trout for bait in ocean waters?
Question: Is it legal to use dead rainbow trout or wild non native brown trout as bait when fishing in the ocean? My buddies want to make sure they are not breaking any laws when shark fishing in Humboldt Bay starts to pick up next month. (Trevor L., Fortuna)

Answer: It is legal as long as each angler never possesses more than the legal limit possession limit for trout in that area (regardless of whether the fish are brought in from elsewhere). As long as the fish were taken legally, they can be used for bait in the ocean waters of the state.


Pig hunting with an AR-type 308 rifle with 10-round magazine?
Question: I have an AR-type 308 rifle with a 10-round detachable magazine. Can this type of rifle be used for wild pig hunting? (Julio R.)

Answer: Yes. Any rifle that is legal to possess in California and that uses centerfire ammunition may be used to take big game, including pigs. Just remember to use non-lead ammunition when in condor country.

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Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@dfg.ca.gov.

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