Wildlife safety tips for golf course maintenance crews

From bears to bees, try these tips to stay safe while working the course.


Todd Dattalo at Cowboys Golf Club
Todd Dattalo, golf course superintendent at Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas. Photo courtesy of Golf Safety

Editor’s note: The following article was supplied by Golf Safety. All product claims, research cited and other information is directly from the company.

When you picture a golf course, serene images of rolling green hills and tranquil scenery probably come to mind. However, this beautiful setting can also be home to potentially dangerous wildlife such as venomous snakes, harmful insects like wasps and fire ants, and even bears or coyotes. Don’t let well-manicured greens lull you into a false sense of security. Make sure your crew knows what to do when they encounter dangerous wildlife and how to keep themselves safe from the potential hazards.

Todd Dattalo, Golf Course Superintendent at Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas, regional golf course superintendent for Arcis Golf and 14-year GCSAA member is well-versed in the wildlife hazards of the golf course. He shared some of his expertise, as well as how he's found Golf Safety's videos valuable in keeping his crew safe.

Don't Panic!

“Number one, I would say don't panic,” says Dattalo, “that's always the best bet if you ask me.” Dattalo says the most common wildlife threat you’re likely to encounter on the golf course is snakes, but that they tend to stay away from you if you remain calm. Staying cool and collected and getting away from the animal in a safe manner as soon as possible is the most important wildlife safety tip to keep in mind.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

As important as it is to remain calm, it’s also important to stay alert and be aware of what’s around you when working outdoors, including weather conditions. For example, Dattalo says, “We're not going to run into many snakes until the weather is a little bit warmer. We tend to do a lot of the brushwork when it's cooler out, and [the snakes] are not as active.” Another example Dattalo brings up: fire ants. “We don't really talk about that one very much,” he says. “you get bit, and you just go on with your day. But if you're in an area and you get caught up in them, it could be not fun, and you could have a reaction to it.” It’s easy to get caught up in the job, but staying alert is essential to protect yourself from the risks involved with working outdoors.

Stay Informed

When creating a safe environment for your team to work, make sure there’s a clear line of communication and up-to-date information. Dattalo holds daily safety meetings with his team, where they discuss potential dangers on the golf course that day, such as bobcats, snakes and more. “It's brought up at a lot of safety meetings so they're aware of what's going on out there,” Dattalo says. This prepares workers for what they may encounter and ensures they are aware of what to do if they see something dangerous.

Wear the Right Gear

You can’t afford to overlook the value of protective gear when it comes to keeping your crew safe from hazards. At Cowboys Golf Club, Dattalo’s crew is equipped with long-sleeved shirts, insect repellant spray, tech snake boots, snake guards and gloves. “Anything that can cover your legs and your arms,” he says. High-quality protective gear helps safeguard his crew from insect bites, snake bites and other outdoor risks.

Know What to Do in an Emergency

Your crew should always know what to do in case of an emergency, especially in time-sensitive scenarios such as a crew member getting bitten by a venomous snake. Dattalo ensures all his workers know what to do in emergency scenarios from the moment they join his crew. “In our meetings, we do go over ‘In case of emergency you’ve got to contact me,’ and then we'll go from there. New employees are required to know the protocol, so we make it pretty clear to them this is what we need to do," Dattalo says. Ensure that your crew always has their phones on them so that they can contact their supervisor or emergency services.

In addition to these tips, Datallo also says Golf Safety’s training videos have helped him keep his crew informed and safe. “The resources, the tools that they provide have been awesome,” he says. Datallo adds that the biggest benefit for him is how Golf Safety acts as a handy, time-saving expert that he can easily refer to. “It takes it out of my hands,” he says. “It’s a great tool to be able to get online and just say, ‘here's a video.’” Working on a golf course can often feel idyllic, but it’s crucial to be aware of your surroundings and take safety precautions when encountering wildlife risks. No matter what the specific hazards are, having a clear line of communication with your crew and ensuring they know what to do in an emergency will always be essential steps in keeping them safe. Luckily, reminding your team of the risks has never been easier with Golf Safety’s thorough range of training videos.