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Terrorizes Illinois Links
June 14, 2001
A birdie on a golf course is usually a good thing. But that's not the case at an Illinois golf course, where a round on the links could land you on the Endangered Species list.
A red-tailed hawk has been preying upon golfers, injuring least 30 people on the Village Greens Golf Course, in WoodRidge, Ill., this past year.
The attacks, usually more humiliating than life threatening, occur during the spring nesting season and usually subside at the end of June, when the babies have learned to fly.
Village Greens General Manager Brandon Evans says that most "victims" have escaped with minor cuts and scrapes — two have had to go to the hospital. Warning signs are posted throughout the course and in the clubhouse.
Evans says he doesn't think the predator has hurt business, but it's referred to by a "few four-letter words used by people who have been hit by her." Most golfers who have been harassed by the bird are able to laugh it off, though he says, "They're always asking for additional handicaps." (continued)
Contrary to popular belief, the red-tailed hawk is not on endangered or threatened species list, but it is protected under the U.S. Migratory Act.
Hawks attack from behind, using the element of surprise when approaching their prey or defending their nest site. Raptor expert Debby Farley, of the nearby Spring Brook Nature Center, says that hawks are not generally hostile toward humans, but with "typical parental instinct, she's opted to get more aggressive."
No One Yelled ‘Fore’
John Pontarelli, who lives near the course's 14th hole, knew the legend of the hawk, but that didn't stop him from becoming a recent casualty of the protective mother.
He figured he was the victim of an errant golf ball, since he neither heard nor saw sign of the dive bombing bird.
Bending over to retrieve his ball, Pontarelli was knocked to the ground and suffered minor divots to his head. Undaunted, he was bandaged up at the clubhouse and rejoined his foursome.
"It picks and chooses its prey, and that day I was the chosen one."
Despite more than 60 attacks in the past four years, patrons of the Village Greens Golf Course don't seem too concerned that the red-tailed hawk has set her sights on their fairway.
Victim John Pontarelli bears no ill will toward the bird and continues to book tee times at the Village Greens. "Live and let live, but I wish the hawk would live somewhere else."
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has given the course permission to break up the nest, which sits adjacent to the first hole, once they are sure the babies have left.
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