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Birdies aren't always enjoyable at this golf course

Fox Hollow Golf Course ranger Gary Elms has enough stories, he could someday write a novel about the perils of petty bird crime.

LAKEWOOD, Colo. — This reporter should have known better.

On that morning in 2019, working on a feature I had pitched about thieving birds, I bought a breakfast burrito before heading out to the course.

“The birds are all over our course,” Fox Hollow Golf Course ranger Gary Elms told us on a cart ride out to the first hole of the Canyon 9 on the 27-hole course tucked beneath the foothills.

“They seem to hang out in trees near where people park their carts,” he said.

Elms, who’s worked at Fox Hollow for seven years, said the magpie population has grown at the course over the years. And in that time, he’s witnessed them get bolder and bolder.

“I’ve seen the birds take the burritos and take them up in the air … and come down and eat them.”

He wasn’t exaggerating.

Within the first 20 minutes of staking out the green, watching the birds search through unsuspecting golfers’ carts, their attention turned to ours.

It started with one bird. Then there were three.

Within two minutes magpies were flocking to the cart, pulling my burrito out of the compartment and ripping it to shreds.

“How would you like to be playing golf and come back to 20 birds in your cart?” Elms asked us as we went to survey the damage.

“They tore up the burrito and they defecated (on) the whole golf cart,” Elms said. “I don’t know. We need help.”

It was a charming introduction into a funny problem the course knows too well. Over the years, the birds have stolen all sorts of food from golfers as they putt to finish out holes.

Elms has enough stories, he could someday write a novel about the perils of petty bird crime.

“A lady had, I think it was a sandwich in her purse, and the bird actually went inside her purse, got it and actually pooped inside her purse,” he recalled.

Just about every golfer we stopped who’d played here before had a similar story.

“Birds have stolen potato chips – they were good potato chips – Boulder potato chips,” one said. “I don’t get too annoyed because – bird’s got to eat, too, and I should probably cut back on potato chips and bread anyway.”

“I bought a sandwich but I had to take my shot and the stinking magpie goes in – grabs my sandwich – and starts flying off and it's stuck around its beak,” another told me.

Another golfer who’d just finished putting ticked off a list of things he’d seen the birds steal; crackers, burritos and bags of peanuts.

“We have to warn everybody we serve food,” a cart attendant told us. “Our rule is if it’s not in your mouth – it needs to be in a pocket in your golf bag.”

Elms chuckles when he thinks of people’s run-ins with the birds. He also accepts that they’re just part of a fun day on the golf course.

“It’s just beautiful and the birds are part of it – so what can you do,” he said.

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