Something’s lurking in that water hazardâ€”and it’s not just the errant balls of duffers. New research shows that golf courses can be havens for turtles, and may even attract a richer mix of species than ponds in seemingly more natural settings.
The findings are only the latest of a growing number of studies showing that golf coursesâ€”long derided by environmentalists for heavy use of water and pesticidesâ€”can provide valuable wildlife habitat in a rapidly urbanizing world.
No one advocates flattening an ancient woodland to build 18 new holes. But scientists say that a golf course in the right place, built and maintained in the right way, can be an oasis for creatures from bluebirds to beetles.
For the turtles of North Carolina, golf ponds “are providing something that other ponds are not,” says University of Kentucky herpetologist Steven Price, a co-author of the two new turtle papers.
“So maybe they’re the lesser of two evils.”
Price and his colleagues sought to understand the fate of turtles in the Charlotte, North Carolina, metropolitan area, where galloping growth has swallowed 60 percent of the undeveloped land in some counties.
The researchers set out nets baited with tins of sardines in 20 local ponds. Some ponds were on golf courses, others in cattle pastures or neighborhood parks. The scientists checked the traps every other day, extracting any occupants by hand.