‘Aggressive’ squirrels causing club to consider moving

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NAPLES, Florida — Wyndemere Country Club prides itself on a 27-hole golf complex that’s in “peak playability.” The country club is also part of the Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary Program which protects the environment, including wildlife.

But after receiving member reports of squirrels with “aggressive behavior,” Wyndemere CEO Ryan Cozzetto feels he needs to make a change.

“We are looking into the issue to determine the best outcome for both the squirrels and our members’ safety after receiving numerous reports of aggressive behavior by the animals around several golf tee boxes,” Cozzetto said. “At this point, there are no traps on our property, and we are in the process of determining next steps of which we will update you on soon.”

Wyndemere is in Naples, just north of Golden Gate Parkway and west of I-75.

Some Naples residents were upset when they heard rumors that the squirrels may be trapped and moved.

An aerial view of Wyndemere Country Club. (Courtesy photo)

Is it safe to move wildlife to new habitat?

Joanna Fitzgerald, director of the von Arx Wildlife Hospital, says relocated animals usually struggle to survive in a new environment.

“Typically, relocating is never the best option for the animals,” Fitzgerald said. “They now don’t know where to find food, shelter. They’re fighting for space with animals that already exist in that habitat. So it’s all just a very, very poor chance of the animals thriving where they’re relocated.”

Fitzgerald says she receives animal complaints from golfers regularly but does not know the situation at Wyndemere. However, she says most animal problems are a result of human behavior.

“What is most concerning is if the squirrels have become nuisances, because of how they are interacting with people on the course, the people need to change their behaviors and not expect an animal that’s become habituated to change their behavior because other golfers are feeding them,” Fitzgerald said.

She says that expecting wild animals to stay away from open food is unrealistic, especially when people feed them.

“A lot of what you see on social media is that fun, ‘Oh, look at me handing a French fry to a crow or to a squirrel or to a bird at the beach’ and you get that little selfie,” Fitzgerald said. “Well, that’s just rewarded that animal.”

Nature and golfing coexist on courses

Naples resident Brittany Hubbard says relocation shouldn’t be an option for Wyndemere.

“Relocating our native gray squirrels is absolutely absurd,” Hubbard said. “To say they are being aggressive is a complete cop-out. They need to say this to justify their ridiculous behavior.”

Hubbard says golfing should be about enjoying nature, not changing it.

“I just don’t get why we can’t coexist peacefully,” Hubbard said. “We should be the protectors of such creatures.”

As of late Thursday, there have been no announcements from Wyndemere Country Club about what the staff is planning to do about the golf course squirrels.

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