The Saranac Lake Central School District Board of Education agreed Wednesday night to uphold an earlier decision to euthanize a flock of geese that have been defecating on the school's athletic fields.
The board received criticism last week from some members of the public who said the plan sets a bad example for students.
As a result, the board agreed to hold a public hearing before taking any action. It also brought in the federal wildlife biologist who advised the board in its decision to further discuss strategies for controlling the birds.
About a dozen people spoke during the public hearing, including several students, teachers, coaches, parents and business owners.
The majority said they supported the board's decision last Wednesday to pay the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services Division $2,500 to exterminate the nuisance flock of geese.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Jan Plumadore was one of the residents who spoke.
"Nobody wants to hurt animals, but it seems to me that this board took a responsible vote during the last meeting and I commend you for it," he said.
Plumadore cited several instances in which diseases found in goose excrement made people sick.
"The board of education and administration of this district have a duty to act in 'loco parentis' (in the place of a parent); your highest duty is to protect the wellbeing of these students," Plumadore concluded.
Others who spoke echoed similar words. High school coaches and several students who play sports on the affected fields also testified that the goose feces had become a major concern.
"When playing it becomes second nature to wipe your forehead or mouth and trying to avoid getting this stuff in your face is an issue," said high school football player Ryan Farmer.
Athletic coaches also said the problem is more extensive than people realize, noting that the goose droppings "cover nearly every square inch of the field."
Others said they still thought the school should continue to pursue non-lethal strategies, but ultimately the board decided to uphold its original decision to go ahead with the extermination.
USDA Federal Wildlife Biologist Mark Carrara said during the meeting that the flock of about 20 or 30 geese is spread out around the community, and that the school should coordinate with local governments on future extermination projects.
The benefits of the goose extermination will be immediately noticeable, according to Carrara, but he said that without a long-term strategy the geese would return. The board agreed to form a long-range strategy including several non-lethal approaches, such as fences, mesh barriers and landscaping practices that make the schools campus less attractive to geese.
Carrara said USDA personnel would round up and euthanize as many geese as possible during the summer molting season, a period when the birds can't fly and are easier to capture.