Geese On The Golf Course? Many Courses Say Yes In Hawaii

By Larry Gilhuly, director, Northwest Region
March 20, 2014

(L) The Nene goose is slightly smaller and encouraged in Hawaii on many golf courses. (R) Protection of eggs is one way local agencies and golf courses are working to expand the state bird of Hawaii.

The Northwest Region is the largest of the Green Section’s eight regions. At the same time, it also has the widest range of weather extremes from the Dakotas to Alaska to the middle of the Pacific Ocean in Hawaii. During a recent Hawaii visit, an ongoing observation was noted that bucks the trend of what is desired on virtually every golf course on the mainland. The topic of the observation was geese, as noted in the last Northwest region update A Method To Give A Goose To Your Geese - No Deposit, No Return; however, this is not a typical wild goose tale. In this case, the story of the Nene (pronounced neh-neh), the state bird of Hawaii, is a commendable tale of the resurgence of an endangered species.

The Nene goose is about half the size of its Canadian relative with half of its inherent issues for golf courses. Wild populations of Nene currently only inhabit half of the Hawaiian Islands.  Therefore, Nene are almost exclusively found in remote areas like near the top of the Haleaukala crater on Maui. However, populations of Nene can be found lounging near ponds and the verdant grass of several golf courses on Kauai, Maui and the Big Island.

One recently visited golf course, King Kamehameha Golf Club on Maui, plays host to a healthy population of Nene. Superintendent Ikaika Bechart reports that the total number of Nene is between 40 and 50 geese, and that the population is gradually increasing every year. The golf course provides plentiful food and an ideal environment for raising young birds.  Furthermore, the Nene often lays its eggs in open locations that are commonplace on the golf course. The above photo shows how the addition of a three sided box protects the egg and nesting bird from the prevailing wind and potential predators. The cooperative effort of the golf course and local agencies is another perfect example of how golf courses benefit wildlife preservation in many ways. In Hawaii, golf courses continue to support an endangered species. They never say no-no to the Nene.

Source: Larry Gilhuly lgilhuly@usga.org

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