By MIKE KOSHMRL | Jackson Hole News & Guide
JACKSON, Wyo. (AP) — Golfers and staff at Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis encounter a wildlife hazard almost every spring that's unknown on most of the United States' 20,000 golf courses.
Some courses are overrun by feces-depositing geese. Some are plagued by ball-snatching foxes. Courses in the South find water traps with toothy alligators.
But in Jackson Hole the problem is bigger.
Anyone at or near Golf and Tennis, north of Jackson, can often see wild bison, sometimes in herds numbering in the dozens, migrating west of Highway 191 and onto the course's 278 acres during the spring.
The shaggy, sometimes irritable one-ton beasts made themselves at home on Golf and Tennis grounds earlier this month, said Jeff Jenson, the course assistant superintendent.
“It's usually just a few, but this year we had about three dozen or so for a day or two,” Jensen told the Jackson Hole News & Guide.
“We do our best to get them out of play, or haze the bison into areas where they won't be an issue with the golfers,” he said. “The damage they can do to the greens is the main maintenance headache for us.”
The course is near Grand Teton National Park and also the National Elk Refuge, both places where, as the song says, buffalo roam.
When the bison become particularly troublesome the Wyoming Game and Fish Department is asked to drop by and encourage the beasts to move along.
There have been three “hazing” operations at Golf and Tennis this year that Game and Fish spokesman Mark Gocke had heard of.
“It's something that we generally deal with every year,” Gocke said.
“As they come off the refuge, bison tend to find their way to the Gros Ventre River and move on down toward those private lands,” he said. “Elk do it, too.
“Bison tend to present a little more of a threat, so we try to keep them not only out of Jackson Hole Golf and Tennis, but away from the homes there for human safety.”
Bison are dangerous, of course, and the safety of customers is the first priority for managers of the course. Golfers, especially those on foot, are urged to be vigilant when the herd is near, Golf and Tennis spokesman Levi Thorn said.
Animals that are in the way can usually be convinced to retreat with foreign sounds or sights, such as the crinkling of a trash bag.
“Sprinklers tend to scare them off, too,” Jensen said.
Because Golf and Tennis isn't lined by high fences — and butts up to the national park, the refuge and the Snake River corridor — errant wildlife wandering onto the course is probably unavoidable. Per company policy, it's also accepted.
“Ultimately, our motto is 'wildlife has the right of way,'” Jensen said.
“The pace of play seems to be an issue sometimes,” he said, “but nobody really seems to care because of the thrill of it.”
Information from: Jackson Hole (Wyo.) News And Guide, www.jhnewsandguide.com