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Published: Tuesday, 8/7/2012

Wildlife welcome guests at Highland Meadows

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE OUTDOORS EDITOR

As Stacy Lewis hits her tee shot on hole No. 8 during the opening round of the Jamie Farr Toledo Classic at Highland Meadows on Thursday, the eyes of the gallery might not be the only ones following her backswing or watching the crowd surge toward the green.

When one of the LPGA pros sends an errant shot rattling into the woods, they could be adding a stroke to their score and disturbing the slumber of the permanent residents of this Sylvania layout. If one of the golfers' shots results in a ball plunking into Ten Mile Creek, there's a possibility of momentary panic in those murky waters when the depth charge hits.

Highland Meadows has not just been a place dedicated to golf since 1925, and the host of the Farr for a quarter of a century. The wooded areas collaborate with the creek as it makes a stray spaghetti noodle run through the property, providing the right environment and surroundings that a wide array of wildlife find more than up to par.

"Despite the fact the course is rimmed with houses, we seem to have enough habitat here to keep a resident population of wildlife on the premises," said Dan Salois, who is in his fifth season as course superintendent at Highland Meadows "I love that and enjoy the fact all this wildlife is right here around us. I encourage it, as long as it doesn't become destructive to the golf course."

Salois said some members of the club were having a glass of wine on the patio on a recent evening and saw two fawns venture out of the wooded areas and onto the course. Highland Meadows members have also reported seeing an eight-point buck in velvet, that soft, fuzzy covering on developing antlers.

"It's nice to see deer out here," Salois said, "but they do like to eat my flowers. I used to put out a lot of impatiens, but they must be like cheesecake to the deer. They tear those up."

There have been a few other relatively minor issues with the wildlife that own the course in the dusk-to-dawn time frame, but nothing that rivals the bear and moose intrusions Salois encountered on courses in the mountainous areas of his native Northwest.

"We've had a fox that we've seen around quite a bit this year, and it killed a ground hog and tried to bury it in the sand trap beside one of the greens, but that's not a tough thing to deal with," he said.

Raccoons, possums, squirrels, an occasional coyote, and skunks patrol the grounds, while hawks, a wide range of birds, and a few Canada geese share the air. A mating pair of Canada geese took up residence near Highland's No. 9 hole and hatched a brood of six to eight young earlier this year.

"They made a mess like Canada geese tend to do, but we don't have a big problem with them here, like a lot of other courses do," Salois said.

"I think the members enjoy seeing the wildlife around the course, and for some of them that is some of the reason they chose to join Highland Meadows. You don't get the sense you are in the city, surrounded by houses."

Local radio personality Mike Miller has been a member at Highland Meadows for about 10 years and said he finds the ever-present wildlife to be a welcomed dose of quick therapy during a trying round.

"We all love the game of golf, but this is a tough sport, and one that can be very stressful when things aren't going right," Miller said. "I find the wildlife to be a great diversion. It puts everything into perspective and reminds you that you are out there in the outdoors."

The pro golfers will cross Ten Mile Creek numerous times during each round of the Farr, and those normally peaceful waters below the bridges are home to bass, carp, and pike, along with a variety of smaller fish. One of the grounds crew recently caught a 22-inch pike in the creek, which Miller said is also a haven for turtles.

"When I cross the bridge coming off our No. 12 tee, I always find myself looking right and left, knowing I'm going to see some good-sized turtles sitting there sunning themselves," Miller said. "We've seen deer a lot, watched a fox run across the fairways -- people would be surprised by all that is out there."

Salois, a 36-year-old graduate of Washington State where he received a degree in turf studies, said he considers the wildlife at Highland Meadows to be as much a part of the setting as the greens and the hazards.

"Part of the reason I'm in this line of work is that I love the outdoors, and since this is a game that is played outdoors, I think that is a big part of the appeal for a lot of people," Salois said. "We enjoy our wildlife, and most of them do no damage at all, so I'm not going to make a big deal out of a little nuisance here and there. It's nice having them around."

Contact Blade outdoors editor Matt Markey at: mmarkey@theblade.com or 419-724-6068.



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