Wildlife Management on Golf Courses is a Balance Between Conservation and Control

Out and about viewing golf greens is where I’ve been lately as the Commercial Horticulture Extension Agent in Brevard County. Here in the county is where you will find 25 golf courses across the 1,557 square miles of land space that is bordered on the east by the Atlantic Ocean. The area is affectionately known as the Space Coast.

What has surprised and delighted me most about the courses I have visited so far is the biological diversity and the amount of wildlife that you can find there, as well as how different each of these golf course ecosystems are compared to one another.

Brevard county has 25 golf courses and each one of them is a unique ecosystem. Photo by Bonnie Wells

In just the short time, and through the courses that I have visited so far, I’ve had the pleasure of witnessing an abundance of bird species, from Sandhill Cranes, Ibises, Egrets, Cormorants, and several other species who are likely taking advantage of the coastal area to rest and feed along their journey on the Atlantic Flyway.

Florida has more than 500 species of native birds. During fall and winter, many migrating birds will stop over to use the coastal areas to rest and feed along their 3,000 mile journey across the Atlantic Flyway. UF/IFAS Stock Photo
Many species of wading birds like the Ibis can be found on Brevard golf courses. UF/IFAS Stock Photo
The foyer at a community center at one golf course in Brevard County proudly displays the bird species that can be found on the course. Photo by Bonnie Wells

One of the most notable encounters I had was with a red-tailed hawk that swooped down in front of the golf cart and strategically plucked a mole cricket from the ground with its talons for a quick bite! I’ve seen baby alligators sunning on the edge of ponds and little scurrying field mice living among the tall grassy areas bordering the well-maintained greens and fairways. I’ve seen a small dolphin pod enjoying the waters of the Indian River Lagoon that some courses are lucky enough to border. Who wouldn’t love spending their days riding a cart around the greens having fun playing golf and taking in the beautiful surroundings it has to offer?

Indian River Lagoon views are a plus for any golf course in Brevard County. In this shot, you can see recently planted mangroves along the banks. Great spot for viewing dolphins. Photo by Bonnie Wells

But I’ve also witnessed the struggle these golf courses have with controlling invasive species such as cogongrass, Brazilian pepper tree, and the Australian pine that was once purposely planted throughout Florida without expectations of the resulting consequences. I’ve seen the incredible damage that racoons can do when looking for grubs under the greens, in a fashion not so graceful and helpful as the hawk in getting his mole cricket meal.

Cogongrass is a very aggressive invasive weed that is a constant struggle to control on golf courses. Photo by Bonnie Wells
Australian pine, which is not really a pine at all but a Causarina species, is an invasive tree that was once planted deliberately for erosion control along waterways in Florida. This invasive is becoming the dominant species where planted. Photo by Bonnie Wells
Racoons damage turf while digging in the ground searching for a grub meal. Photo by Bonnie Wells

I’ve been impressed with some of the creative and respectful efforts of controlling the damage that occurs by native wildlife, such as on one course where an innocuous fence was placed around a high value green that was continually under threat by the grub search by resident sandhill cranes. Turns out that, at least on this one course, the cranes are not equally as smart as beautiful, and do not know that with their long legs or wings they can just skip right over the fence.

Notice the fence around the well-maintained green in this photo. Sandhill cranes are a beautiful site on golf courses but can do considerable damage with their beaks when digging for grubs. The fence eliminated that problem for this course. Photo by Bonnie Wells

There is a fine balance between the conservation and control of wildlife on golf courses. The need for these approaches to be integrated is crucial for a healthy and thriving golf course ecosystem.

Invasive species management is probably the cornerstone to this approach, as these non-native species crowd out and threaten the natural resources on golf courses that provide necessary habitat and food for our native wildlife.

The use of fertilizers, pesticides, water and other important resources used to maintain the pristine golfing conditions we enjoy, often result in golf courses being criticized for potentially threatening our environmental quality. While this is a concern for any system that relies on inputs for high quality production, such as farms, ranches and nurseries, this public concern creates a unique opportunity for golf course superintendents to be recognized as stewards of the land, by protecting and enhancing their course’s ecosystem by providing important natural areas that benefit wildlife and people throughout the increasingly urbanized communities across Florida, the nation and beyond.

One course I visited has been very active in efforts to increase their environmental stewardship. They have transformed a low-lying, continuously saturated green, that had once been exceptionably problematic to manage because of the constant elevated disease and weed pressure, into a one-half acre wetland to support native wildlife. Native wetland grasses and plants such as cordgrass, cattails, pickerelweed and spike rush were planted, pesticide use was eliminated, and a beautiful Florida wetland has been established. This was once a constant and expensive challenge to maintain properly, and it has been restored and is alive with the sounds and sights of native wildlife. Now that’s what I call Florida Friendly!

For more information on how to improve the environmental quality of golf courses, please visit: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/pdf/DEPGolfCourseBMP_Rev10_12_WEB.pdf.


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Posted: February 28, 2019

Tags: Brevard County, Golf, Indian River Lagoon, Natural Resources, Sustainability, Turf, UF/IFAS Extension, Wildlife



March 29, 2022

Hi Laura, Currently, we do not have any permaculture classes. Our horticulture agent, Sally, might have some information on it though. You can contact her at sasc@ufl.edu

Laura Branton
March 27, 2022

Do you have classes regarding Perma Culture? My daughter-in-law was talking to me about this and I am hoping you have available information. Thanks


February 10, 2022

Hello, We have another pressure canning class coming up on March 5 from 10 am to 12 pm. You can find it on our Eventbrite page: https://www.eventbrite.com/o/ufifas-extension-brevard-county-18496539748

Flo Fernandez
February 10, 2022

I was wondering if another pressure canning class is coming up? I missed the one this month unfortunately and am very interested in learning this skill!


November 17, 2021

Hi Dianna, I have a post scheduled to go out on 11/24. If you would like to receive our class list sooner, we have a newsletter that goes out on the 3rd Monday of every month! You can subscribe to it here: https://bit.ly/3CxvPY4

November 16, 2021

When will they post December classes?

Laura Dearinger
October 12, 2021

Dear Dr. Wells, I admire your work to find the happy environmentally friendly balance of natural ecosystems within golf courses. We have found many supporters who wish to reinvent the abandoned , privately -owned West End golf course on Newberry Road in Alachua County, and are reaching out to our County government for their support as well. The golf course was the core of our West End Village neighborhood ; we have a dream to revitalize it. Looking forward to contacting you at a later time! Thank you.

Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

October 11, 2021

Hi Laura, Thanks for your comment! I missed it earlier, I apologize. Please feel free to quote me and reach out if you have any questions. Several of our golf courses have become certified with Audubon International for their conservation efforts! I also have an article you may be interested in here, page 16: https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.ftga.org/resource/resmgr/turf_digest/2019/ftd_septoct_2019.pdf

October 11, 2021

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Laura Dearinger
September 5, 2021

I am a huge fan of Greenspaces/ Golf Courses. I love the statement you make underlining the importance of golfcourse superintendents as “stewards of the land. “May I please quote you ? I’m writing our commissioners to help save an abandoned for sale golf course! I love seeing deer, red tailed hawks, Sandhill Cranes on this former course. I’ve also seen a pair of pileated woodpeckers, a flock of egrets, and bluebirds.


August 23, 2021

Hello Michael, It's possible that the class in Cocoa is already full. Please contact the instructor, Gus Koerner, at (321) 633-1702 ext. 52320 or email him at gkoerner@ufl.edu for further information.

Michael E Focht
August 21, 2021

Hello! the Hunter Safety Class is NOT listed on the FWC class list.. My son needs the class, it has been canceled twice..he is signed up for the 3 hour virutal on AUG 24th, but if this cancels, we would like to do the 28th class in Cocoa.. Please advise! Thank YOU! Mike

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July 17, 2021

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Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

July 7, 2021

Hi Chris, Yes, these are "Florida-Friendly" plants, meaning they are low impact, environmentally friendly, use less water and reduce pollutant loading to Florida waters. Learn more here: https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu/ Thanks! Bonnie

Chris Harmon
July 1, 2021

Hello, I just want to clarify... Under "Florida Friendly" cloumn, are you saying the plants do well in the Florida environment OR the plants are dangerous because of the ability to spread and damage the environment like Kudzu in Georgia? I live in Boca Raton, in Palm Beach County, which I believe is Zone 10.

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January 6, 2021

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November 27, 2020

What's up colleagues, nice article and nice urging commented at this place, I am truly enjoying by these.

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Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

November 9, 2020

Hi Mia, the Duval County Extension office should be able to help you with that question. Dr. Kerr is the commercial horticulture agent there, his email is CKERR@COJ.NET. Thanks for reading!

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Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

November 9, 2020

Awesome Frank, will do! Thanks so much for the suggestion. :)

Frank Galdo
November 9, 2020

Please, please, please add the FL native climbing aster! (Symphyotrichum carolinianum) The incredible explosion of fragrant purple flowers arrives in November & December, at a point when many other FL wildflowers are fading. To me, the flowers smell like sweet, warm sugar cookies! It's always loaded with pollinators too... Perfect for wetter soils - along the edges of ponds, swales, etc. Thanks, Frank Galdo - Program Coordinator, Florida-Friendly Landscaping, UF/IFAS Extension Pasco County Pics & info: https://flawildflowers.org/flower-friday-symphyotrichum-carolinianum/ http://hawthornhillwildflowers.blogspot.com/2009/11/climbing-aster-symphyotrichum.html https://twitter.com/PascoExt/status/1243217796705763329

June 28, 2020

These plants are very hard to find for purchase. Do you know anywhere in the Jax area? Thank you

suba suba
June 11, 2020

It as hard to find experienced people in this particular topic, however, you sound like you know what you are talking about! Thanks

Gus Koerner

May 13, 2020

Thanks and you're welcome! - gus

Gus Koerner

May 13, 2020

Thanks for your comments! There are so many math and physics principles practiced and demonstrated in archery! If an instructor can remember to point them out while the kids are on the range, he or she can really reinforce what is taught in the classroom. All the instructor has to do, is find the appropriate teachable moment and take advantage of it. gus

Graham Mitchell
May 8, 2020

This is a great use of math an angles to help improve your archery shooting range. When teaching a beginner having them line up a 90 degree angle will be helpful for them to take the same stance each time. Thank you

Diesel Wold
May 6, 2020

Informative, Thanks for this.

Gus Koerner

April 30, 2020

Thanks for your comments! I feel the same way. - gus

April 30, 2020

fishing is a awesome hobbit. I want fishing again and again.

Gus Koerner

March 26, 2020

Hey Steven! Thanks for your comment. I suggest you get into hunting with a multi-tiered approach, making sure you are comfortable in the woods, you know the laws and regulations of what you plan on hunting, and starting small - with small game that is. Hunting, which includes dispatching small game takes the same skills as hunting large game but with less input and intensity. If you can successfully bag your first raccoon (for example) and process it all the way to the table, you'll be well on your way to hunting larger game as you gain experience. If you haven't taken it, or done it lately, enroll in your local Hunter Safety class by your state game division. They can help. Go out into the woods and scout around. Go to the range and perfect your skills. All these things will not only prepare you for hunting, but will help you decide IF and how you want to go ahead. I hope that helps! - gus

Steven Rinella
March 25, 2020

Great share. I am new in hunting. Should I start with deer hunting? What your recommandation?

Gus Koerner

July 8, 2019

I'm glad you enjoyed the article! gus

Gus Koerner

June 19, 2019

Great to hear Joe! Send me a picture of it. gkoerner@ufl.edu I'd love to see it! gus

Joe Pavlik
May 12, 2019

Haha I did it I made awing bone call . Thanks for the information .

Saptarshi Bhattacharya
March 6, 2019

Thank you for your nice blog post. Keep it up.

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Bonnie C. Wells, DPM

March 5, 2019

Thank you very much, Gary! I have been impressed with the BMP efforts of the Brevard turf professionals I've visited and will most definitely be helping with the implementation of new programs and certifications in environmental stewardship. Stay tuned!

Basudeb Das
March 5, 2019

Thank you for your post. Keep it up.

Gary Chaney
March 4, 2019

This is a great article Bonnie. Thank you very much for taking the time to visit the courses and talk to the superintendents. I am sure that you were pleased with the knowledge and effort they use daily to be stewards of the environment. Many are BMP Certified but we need more to get this certification and implement new programs to make the best agronomic and environmental decisions on a daily basis.

Holly Abeels

February 18, 2019

The counties currently involved in the FL Horseshoe Crab Watch Program are Franklin, Taylor, Dixie, Levy, Hernando, Pinellas, Manatee, Martin, Indian River, Brevard, Volusia, and Nassau. There are some counties that will be incorporated in the future including those in Southwest Florida (and Collier county). Here on the East Coast of Florida we see horseshoe crabs nesting between December-May depending on where you are. On the Gulf Coast of Florida they see them nesting in the spring and fall (Feb-May and Aug-Oct). It's unknown what the nesting time is in southwest Florida. If you ever do see horseshoe crabs please report them to the FWC Wildlife Hotline for horseshoe crabs at this link: https://myfwc.com/research/saltwater/crustaceans/horseshoe-crabs/ (click on Report Your Nesting Horseshoe Crab Sighting). You can also download the free FWC Reporter App and report sightings through your mobile device (https://myfwc.com/news/all-news/sighting-app/).

Kenneth S. Ridlon
February 17, 2019

Is any yagging being done in Collier County? When is the best timr of yr to watch for mating crabs? Several yrs ago I was doing daily searches at Tigertail beach/lagoon. Found a good number that I sexed, measured etc. Never knrw where to send tbe data. Any contact person for this area?

Holly Abeels

December 3, 2018

Thanks Michael. I've put you down on my list and will be in touch once training dates are set.

Holly Abeels

December 3, 2018

Thanks Ivan. I've put you down on my list and will be in touch once training dates are set.

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Linda Seals

November 29, 2018

Hi Erin, unfortunately I do not have another one planned. I will keep your email address and let you know if we have another one.

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Linda Seals

November 29, 2018

Hi Cynthia, this class was in August. I don't have another one planned.

Ivan green
November 26, 2018

I'm in for a mid Brevard county location.

Cynthia Adkins
November 14, 2018

Would you please provide me with more information, like date and cost?

Michael Lee
November 13, 2018

I'm interested and can work for Kirk in Indian River County or Holly in mid to south Brevard.

maghfirah pustaka
November 5, 2018

thank you for the info, very interesting

Erin Carrigan
October 17, 2018

Is this going to be offered anytime soon? I was registered for a previous course but it was cancelled. Thank you. Erin

Gus Koerner

October 11, 2018

Thank you Mary. Feel free to call me anytime to discuss youth shooting sports in our region. Gus 321-633-1702, Ext. 52320

Mary Watkins
September 27, 2018

Gus, We shoot lever action smallbore and pistol cartridge rifle metallic silhouette at Seminole County Gun and archery and Chuluota Sportsmans Club on second Saturday and second Sunday of each month. Also smallbore and Hunters Pistol at Chuluota SC. Mary Watkins

Bradley T.
June 14, 2018

We have just posted an article about the Tegu Lizard being spotted in Brevard County.

Randy Moore
May 22, 2018

Thanks Mr. Gus!

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