Parr for the course: Bear Mountain’s wildlife collaboration

The golf course works with a salmon stocking facility to improve its wildlife habitat.

Bear Mountain Golf and Country Club

Darren Burns, golf course superintendent
Bear Mountain Golf and Country Club, Victoria, British Columbia, Canada
Published date: January 2011

Bear Mountain is a 36-hole Nicklaus-designed golf facility in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. The facility operates two golf courses: Mountain Course and The Valley Course. Thanks to both courses being open year-round, numerous wildlife species visit or become permanent residents. In October 2010, the Bear Mountain maintenance team and the Gold Stream Fish Hatchery had the opportunity to stock juvenile Coho salmon, called parr. The salmon’s life cycle is identified in various stages:

  • Egg
  • Fry
  • Fingerlings
  • Parr
  • Smolt
  • Adult

Size and characteristics also play a major part in a salmon’s life cycle.

The right habitat for salmon

Parr are juvenile salmon that are up to 6 inches in length. They are primarily identified in part by the parallel vertical bars on their bodies. The bars disappear during the transition into the smolt stage of their life cycle. The salmon are only a few months old, but will feed for themselves. At this age, they still need to hide from predators to survive and will not begin to migrate to the ocean until they are 1 to 3 years old. Providing the right habitat for the salmon is critical for their survival. The golf course offers habitat for the parr to survive and then migrate to the ocean through Millstream Creek.

Osborne Pond and Matson Lake

More than 10,000 salmon are stocked in our Osborne Pond, located on the 15th hole of our Valley course, adjacent to Matson Lake. The plan for stocking these two water bodies started a few years ago with the construction of our second Nicklaus-designed golf course. The Osborne Pond, our irrigation retention pond, was constructed to provide adequate water to irrigate the golf course. It’s designed to retain enough water to allow us to stock the pond with either trout or salmon. Osborne Pond is spring-fed and is approximately 40 feet deep. Matson Lake and Osborne Pond feature fish ladders that were constructed to assist the salmonids in their migratory journey to and from Bear Mountain.

After careful scrutiny from the local salmon fish hatchery to make sure that the Osborne pond was capable of supporting the parr, plans were made to stock Osborne pond and Matson Lake. In addition to the hatchery’s habitat evaluation process, numerous water tests were taken and temperatures were recorded in the summer to make sure there was enough oxygen and food supply for the fish to survive. Bear Mountain conducted quarterly water monitoring sampling for nine seasons. Part of our sampling program is an intensive pesticide and fertilizer sampling initiative set forth by the Ministry of Environment. During that period no water tests produced negative results. Bear Mountain conducted quarterly water monitoring sampling for nine seasons. Part of our sampling program is an intensive pesticide and fertilizer sampling initiative set forth by the Ministry of Environment. During that period no water tests produced negative results.

Spoon feeding

CaseStudy-Wildlife-BearMountain-fig3

To ensure the best quality turfgrass while minimizing the environmental impact to our water courses, we implemented the use of a spoon feeding program for both golf courses. Our spoon feeding program is utilized in all fertilizer applications including fairways, greens, and tees. We feed liquid fertilizer at low rates every 10 days to three weeks on our sand-based greens. Spoon feeding eliminates the possibility of fertilizer leaching and runoff. Fertilizer rates are based upon turfgrass type, environmental conditions, and nutrient levels.

Protecting and promoting the environment

Our spoon feeding program is just one example of how we promote and protect the environment at Bear Mountain. We maintain environmental corridors and have constructed brush piles for wildlife. Maintaining corridors and enhancing habitat are important elements of wildlife management. Protecting our habitat is also important. The course provides habitat for the Red Legged frog, an endangered species. To protect the habitat on the Mountain course’s 5th hole, special signage is used. We also stock our irrigation pond on the Mountain course with 500 trout every year. Stocking the pond with trout has attracted various bird species such as:

  • Bald eagles
  • Osprey
  • Cormorants
  • Blue Herons
  • Ducks
Bear Mountain Golf and Country Club

There have even been a few river otter sightings. We also planted numerous aquatic species of plants (reed sedge and bull rushes) to promote an abundance of insect life that helps feed our trout and provide our ducks with a nesting place. We are very proud to have added 10,000 parr to our program. We take pride in being able to provide our parr with homes for the winter, helping them grow and mature as they prepare for their oceanic journey each spring. We hope they are successful and make their return to Bear Mountain in the fall of 2012 to spawn. We look forward to other future plans and stocking Osborne pond next year with a new parr school. Providing protected habitat for salmon will help provide a future for the species. Wildlife projects provide great outreach opportunities for local communities. Golf courses can be an integral part of a healthy ecosystem. This latest project at Bear Mountain demonstrates that golf courses and a healthy environment can coexist.

Learn more about Bear Mountain Golf and Country Club.