Eric McPherson doesn't mind that he sometimes sounds more like a wildlife biologist than the director of green and grounds at the Omaha Country Club.
McPherson said the golf club, site of the U.S. Senior Open, does all it can to build diversity on the 160-acre grounds in north central Omaha.
Golfers may encounter deer, turkeys, fox, rabbits, squirrels, several species of ducks and songbirds and lots of red-tailed hawks in the park-like setting with its mature trees and rolling hills.
No lions, tigers or bears. Or alligators.
“I think it's absolutely fantastic,” said McPherson, who nurtured his love for animals and the outdoors while growing up on a dairy farm in Ashley, Mich. “We are an outdoor game played on a natural landscape. We encourage it as much as we can.”
McPherson said some areas along the edges of the course aren't maintained, which gives animals a great corridor to move through or hide. Brush piles provide a space for smaller animals to hide in or build a nest. A creek provides water even in the driest years. Food is plentiful.
When there is a problem with say, bugs, the 29-member grounds crew always tries to find the safest materials possible.
“I think the industry is much more aware and sensitive,” he said. “We've moved a long way in the last 50 to 60 years, especially since the (nature advocate) Rachel Carson days. I think everybody has become much more aware of what we do.”
The payoff comes when McPherson sees a fawn taking its first steps on the eighth hole. Or listens to the parents of young red-tailed hawks going crazy as the youngsters learn to fly. He'll sometimes see 20 deer in a day.
“Turkeys and their breeding habits are always entertaining to everybody,” McPherson said. “People are always amazed at how much wildlife activity. They don't do much to get out of the way when people come through.”
That likely will change as tents and bleachers popped up for the Open. But McPherson, who has been at OCC since February 2011, isn't worried.
He said a forested area with grass meadows to the north of the course will give the animals a place to go when an expected 25,000 to 30,000 people show up each day for the Open.
Still, he said, it will be interesting to see how the residents of the course react.
“You put that many people out here and the animals may stay hidden,” he said. “Chances are, people won't see a lot of them.”