Coyotes take up residence at Shennecossett Golf Course

A coyote runs across a green at  Shennecossett Golf Course this week. Coyotes have taken to lying in sand pits, digging holes and standing near golfers this summer, and have not been deterred by the course employees efforts to discourage them. (Photo courtesy Eric Morrison)
A coyote runs across a green at Shennecossett Golf Course this week. Coyotes have taken to lying in sand pits, digging holes and standing near golfers this summer, and have not been deterred by the course employees efforts to discourage them. (Photo courtesy Eric Morrison)

Groton — The coyotes are just part of the landscape at Shennecossett Golf Course now.

A family of coyotes has taken up residence in and around the golf course this summer, digging holes in the green, sleeping in the sand pits and becoming an unsettling presence around early-morning golfers, who now come across the animals on a daily basis.

"We've never seen this many coyotes wandering around the property as I've seen this year," said Tim Sisk, a clerk who was working at the course's front desk Monday morning.

They're not deterred by much — flying golf balls, pepper sauce sprayed on the green and attempts by course staff to scare them away by yelling all go unnoticed.

"They're not afraid of humans," said Eric Morrison, the course superintendent. "They'll be out here walking around while people are golfing, while they are mowing."

And they always seem to be around.

"They must have a den somewhere," he said. "Now you can pretty much see them any day or evening."

The coyotes have so far left golfers alone, preferring to walk around the golf course, keeping their distance from humans.

"They're not running away, and they're not running toward us," said Dee Pearson, a longtime member at the course and a regular golfer there.

"So far they haven't bothered us," said Beverly Napper. "You just wouldn't want to come on top of them and scare them," she said.

There could be rabbits and other small animals for the coyotes to hunt at the course, said state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection wildlife biologist Chris Vann.

"Certainly coyotes may find the golf course productive," he said. "There may be an abundance of prey."

The department receives about 200 complaints about coyotes a year, usually when a coyote kills another animal or appears ill.

Though they rarely approach humans, the biggest threat they pose is to small pets — Vann said DEEP received a report of a pet dog killed by a coyote on Meridian Street in Groton in August.

"They're certainly an animal to take caution with," he said.

The most common advice DEEP officials give is to avoid leaving any food out that might attract animals, and to keep small pets on a leash when they're outside and carry an airhorn or pepper spray if they walk in the woods.

"You want to act aggressive," Vann said. "Chase it off, pick up a stick."

Or perhaps a nine iron.

The breeding season for coyotes in Connecticut lasts from January to March, and pups are born in spring in dens that their parents dig or adapt from an abandoned burrow built by other animals.

The animals, which were not reported in Connecticut until the mid-1950s, have become common throughout the state and comfortable with close interactions with humans.

A persistent coyote created a stir by walking around New London's residential neighborhoods last spring, prompting a public meeting during which many residents called on the city to get rid of the animal. Coyotes killed at least two small dogs in the city over a few months.

Morrison said he is considering hiring a company to trap the coyotes, especially since they started digging large holes in the green every night.

Vann said he couldn't determine a reason the coyotes would be digging, guessing that the pups could be practicing building burrows or just playing.

He has tried spraying the green with Tabasco sauce, yelling at the coyotes and applying pest control substances to the area where they're digging holes.

"No dice," he said.

For now, he said, all he can do is fill in the holes with dirt each morning.

"That's just nature," Sisk said. "Nothing you can do about it."

m.shanahan@theday.com 

Shennecossett Golf Course superintendent Eric Morrison said a coyote has been digging holes across the course every night. (Photo courtesy Eric Morrison)
Shennecossett Golf Course superintendent Eric Morrison said a coyote has been digging holes across the course every night. (Photo courtesy Eric Morrison)

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