A plan to exterminate nuisance geese on the grounds of the Saranac Lake Central School District has ruffled the feathers of some local residents who say killing wildlife sets a bad example for students.
School officials have been knee deep in a battle to remove the birds and rid their campus of a minefield of feces. They say the goose excrement has been piling up on athletic fields and has caused a health concern for students.
The board of education has consulted with federal and state wildlife personnel and, after trying a variety of non-lethal approaches, was advised to trap and kill the geese. The board agreed last week to pay the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division $2,500 to exterminate the resident flock of geese.
The school district has received some negative feedback on their decision, including an email from one resident who called the decision "despicable."
"It sends a bad message to the kids," said Saranac Inn resident Lea Bedore. "We as adults need to show that we can find compassionate solutions to problems with animals and other people and I don't think that killing is an option," she said.
Other members of the public stooped to more disparaging name-calling. The district received emails referring to school board members as "idiot" and "animal hater."
Superintendent Gerald Goldman expressed disappointment with the lack of civility.
"My question to the folks who would otherwise demonize us is, would you want your children rolling around in it?" he asked.
Recent research at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta confirm that Canada goose excrement is laden with potentially dangerous bacteria, some of which are resistant to bactericides. Up to 94 percent of excrement comprises forms of E. coli and salmonella microbes.
But Bedore and other residents have said they doubt that playing in goose poop causes a health risk to kids. Bedore pointed out that there have been no reported illnesses at the school.
Goldman noted that whether it's safe or not is beside the point.
"I don't think we should have to prove that rolling around in feces isn't a good idea," he said.
Nevertheless, the school board has agreed to reexamine its decision.
They've invited the federal wildlife biologist who recommended the trapping and killing of the birds to discuss the issue with the board and the public during the next meeting on June 1.