Greens ripped up after ducks are shot at Sydney golf club

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The Independent Online

The note, left at a suburban Sydney golf club, was terse but to the point. "Warning: you bastards kill one bird and we will destroy all your greens at our leisure. We will be watching and waiting."

What prompted it was Warringah Golf Club's decision to hire a marksman to cull native wood ducks that have been ripping up its greens. Some local residents were unhappy, but the club management did not expect the retaliation that took place at the weekend.

After news of the cull appeared in the local newspaper, intruders crept in overnight and dug up the greens. The menacing note, scrawled on a piece of cardboard, was planted in the earth. A golf professional working in the club's pro shop received a threatening phone call.

Warringah had obtained a three-month licence to hunt the ducks. "The ducks dig up the greens as they forage for food," the club's general manager, Brian Leggett, told The Sydney Morning Herald. "Then the process moves on and comes out the other end, and you finish up with faeces all over the green. You have these little piles everywhere on the green."

Less radical measures had been tried, including placing cardboard cut-outs of cats and rubber snakes around the course, but without success. "The ducks just get used to them and come back," Mr Leggett said.

One resident told the local Manly Daily newspaper: "It seems that is what we do now. When something gets in the way, we just shoot it. I'm horrified. My daughter was walking nearby and was scared by the noise of a gunshot. It seems harsh."

Mr Leggett said the shooter employed to cull the errant fowl used a silencer and he condemned the vandals. "I can understand people being concerned and upset, but you don't then take things into your own hands. We don't like the fact of having to take the action of shooting some of the ducks , but it's really moved on from there when you start getting trespassing and criminal damage."

The incident is being investigated by the police. Four greens were extensively damaged, and three others had lumps of turf dug up with a spade.

The club, which also employs a shooter to kill crows that steal golf balls, was given the duck licence by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, whose spokesman said: "We are convinced the golf club has tried everything they can do to get the ducks to go somewhere else. We hate this kind of stuff, but they are suffering thousands of dollars worth of damage every year. Normally, if they get rid of a few, the other ducks get the message."

The spokesman added that the retaliatory tactics were "understandable" on the part of people concerned for duck welfare.

And the vigilante attacks appear to have worked, too. The cull has been halted, and the club will try again to find an alternative solution. It has sent an email to every golf club around the country, requesting help and advice. "I know, anecdotally, that this is a problem on many, many golf courses throughout Australia," Mr Leggett said.