Border collie keeps geese off Edgewood Tahoe’s golf course (video)
At Edgewood Tahoe, a blur of black and white fur flies across the golf course, flushing a gaggle of Canada geese off the green and into a nearby pond.
“Get ‘em, Luke,” says Ken Bednar, as the border collie jumps into the pond and swims toward the birds, honking in irritation.
“He loves this,” adds Bednar — and given his ear-to-ear grin, so does he.
Luke is the second of Bednar’s border collies to patrol Edgewood Tahoe’s golf course, which can become overrun with geese, since 2009. Three-year-old Luke has been on the job just under three years.
Turf landscaping isn’t natural to Lake Tahoe and has resulted in more geese residing in the basin, instead of just flying over.
Every year USDA Wildlife Services rounds up Canada geese from around the Truckee Meadows area — roughly 94 square miles in Western Nevada, including Reno, Carson City and Lake Tahoe — and relocates them to other parts of the state.
“It’s mostly to keep them out of airways so we don’t have any geese-plane collisions,” says Jessica Heitt, urban wildlife coordinator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife (NDOW), which assists with the roundup. “During migration, we can get upwards of 10,000 geese in the Truckee Meadows area.”
In June, Luke assisted in the annual roundup at Edgewood, herding around 120 geese into cages to be relocated to a wildlife area in the Ruby Mountains. The roundup is done at a time when the geese have molted their feathers and can’t fly.
“The geese just destroy the course,” explains Bednar.
According to NDOW, one goose can eat up to 3 pounds of grass a day — and leave behind 2 pounds of droppings. The feces contain phosphorus and nitrogen, nutrients that aid in algae growth, and coat the bottom of Lake Tahoe in some areas.
But according to scientists at the University of California’s Tahoe Research Group, while the droppings could affect water quality in areas where the birds are concentrated, they are probably not a major source of pollution in the lake as a whole.
Nevertheless, the droppings are a less-than-desirable addition to beaches and golf courses around Lake Tahoe. After several other attempts to keep geese away from Edgewood — while also not interfering with peoples’ rounds of golf — they landed on a solution that works.
Once a day Bednar and Luke drive around the course in a golf cart, searching for geese. Bednar, who works in real estate, volunteers his time.
“He runs them, and I try to play a little golf. He does the geese better than I do the golf,” he chuckles. “Border collies have to have a job. If they don’t have a job they get real bored, and they are not fun to be around.”
Using hand signals so as not to disturb the golfers up ahead, Bednar instructs Luke to stay in the cart as he walks onto the green. A flick of his hand and Luke’s out of the cart and headed straight for a group of geese. Another signal and he is back at Bednar’s side.
“That’s amazing. Can you train my dog?” says a golfer as he passes by.
Despite rubbing elbows with the likes of Jared Allen, Jim McMahon, Larry the Cable Guy and other celebrities who attend the annual American Century Golf Tournament at Edgewood, Luke, to his credit, seems unaware of his star status — or the 3,500 friends he has on Facebook.
He is far more concerned about the next group of geese that has dared to step foot on his turf.