Wily coyote stars in viral Vegas video

Proof of canine’s wanton destruction of golf course ropes strikes a nerve with superintendents: ‘Like catching Bigfoot on video!!!’


Filed to: Wildlife, Nevada

Video capture of a coyote chewing through a rope on a golf course
Jake Scharmann, superintendent at Sun City Summerlin’s Highland Falls Course, posted viral footage of a wild visitor. Photos courtesy of Jake Sharmann

Jake Scharmann had no idea when he first received and started sharing a video provided to him by his course’s director of golf operations — of a coyote gnawing through a rope — that it would be his ticket to internet fame.

“I really didn’t,” says Scharmann, superintendent at Sun City Summerlin’s Highland Falls Course in Las Vegas and a five-year association member. “I sent the video to a couple of guys, some colleagues of mine. I showed it to one sales rep, and he said, ‘Man, you should put that on Twitter.’ I hadn’t really thought about that.”

He followed that suggestion mid-afternoon on June 13. Within a day, it had racked up more than 40,000 views, and it was at 54,000-plus views — with dozens of retweets and comments and hundreds of likes — and climbing a day later.

“I’m really enjoying it,” Scharmann said of his sudden turf Twitter fame. “I’ve gotten a bunch of new followers, and I’m following almost all of them back. I’m always looking for new superintendents to follow. It’s cool to have this community feeling all coming together. People knew it was happening, but it wasn’t that common to see. We finally have video proof. I’m sure some of those guys are showing their membership and their pros: ‘Look, it really does happen.’”

Donny Long, Summerlin’s director of golf operations, recorded the 23-second clip of the cantankerous canine just in front of Highland Falls’ No. 1 teebox. The front nine of the course — it’s one of three 18-holers that make up Sun City Summerlin Golf — was closed for greens aerification, which might have emboldened the coyote, Scharmann speculates.

Long was “checking in” with the aerification work when he stopped to video the dastardly deed.

“He just happened to be there at the right place at the right time,” Scharmann says. “I’ve gotten them on video before, but I was more like 200 feet away. I was surprised how close he was — 30 to 40 feet or something like that — and the coyote didn’t seem to care.”

The comments would suggest the video struck a nerve:

“20yrs in the CA desert and not one member would believe this!!”

—    Stu Rowland (@StuGrowsGolf)

“Happens daily at our place. First time I’ve seen footage of it though. Well done!”

—    Todd Paquette (@tmpaquette)

“Every morning! We’ve had so many different opinions on this. Thanks!!!!

—    Jeff Hache (@JeffHache)

“So glad you got this on video, nobody ever believed me!! THANK YOU!!!!!”

—    David Jones (@GolfsoupJones)

And Scharmann’s favorite:

“This is like catching Bigfoot on video!!!”

—    Thad Thompson (@TerryHillsMaint)

A quick perusal of obscure sometimes-years-old Facebook posts, superintendent blogs and even course newsletters suggests it’s a widespread phenomenon. Many industry folks assume, usually without proof, the ropes are being cut by coyotes, though in some cases foxes are blamed.

But many cases are chalked up to disgruntled homeowners/former employees/former members.

“The reason it’s so hard to believe it’s coyotes is, after they chew through it, it’s such a clean cut,” Scharmann says. “It looks like a sharp pair of scissors cut it in one snip. It’s really impressive. You see it and, wow, you don’t think of a coyote’s teeth being that sharp.”

The video impressed at least one coyote expert.

Stanley Gehrt, Ph.D., professor of wildlife ecology at Ohio State University and researcher with the Urban Coyote Research Project, says, “That is an amazing video, and really interesting behavior.”

Video capture of a coyote chewing through a rope on a golf course
The Highland Falls Course, sans coyote.

Though he hears “all kinds of things” about coyotes, he says this is the first he has heard about their penchant for golf course rope destruction.

He admits he’s unable to shed any light on why there might be a widespread coyote war being waged on golf course ropes.

“I will say, when I see this, it does fit with what I find so amazing about this animal,” he says, “which is there is so much to them that we don’t understand. That is the researcher side of me. The other, nonscientific side of me smiles and notes this is just another behavior that gives me the impression of an animal conforming to the original descriptions by Native Americans in the West, for which the coyote was the trickster character in their culture.”

Tricksters or not, it does cause a bit of a headache at Highland Falls. Scharmann says he has tried “coyote-resistant” elastic ropes, but that still gets gnawed, and still needs to be replaced. He has tried interlacing steel cables in a hollow-braid rope, but the time involved doesn’t make it worthwhile, especially since he has to replace the sun-bleached rope regularly anyway.

He estimates he spends roughly $1,000 a year, plus four work hours a week, just replacing coyote-chewed ropes.

“I think it might be slightly worse here,” Scharmann says. “We have three golf courses, with a superintendent at each. Out of the three, for whatever reason, I seem to have more of an issue with it, but every course in town deals with it. It’s a daily thing here. Some days are worse than others. One day they’ll just chew one section of rope. The next day, it’s on 80% of them. I have no idea why they get it in their heads one day more than another.

“We do have one family of coyotes that hangs out by the back of the driving range, and coyotes have pups every single year, three to eight in every litter every year. But we honestly like having them there. They keep the rabbit population down, and every once in a while, if they’re feeling like it, they’ll hunt the geese that cause a lot of damage. We like having the coyotes here. That just comes with the damage they do.”

Andrew Hartsock is GCM’s senior managing editor.