It was hot and humid last Wednesday, but nevertheless, about 40 people came together at midday to hold a vigil for the 200 geese killed at Islip High School on July 1.
After making calls and raising the issue to the school board and new superintendent Dennis O’Hara, it was announced that O’Hara had placed a moratorium on employing the USDA to kill geese on school property.
“I am confident that the district will not be doing this again,” said John Di Leonardo, president of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature (LION) and an organizer of the vigil. “Whether it be because they [the district] realized it was wrong or whether they realized they can’t do it quietly anymore.”
Islip School District has been hiring the USDA to kill geese for the last eight years. LION wants to work with the school to find a humane, non-lethal method of getting rid of geese. Some of these alternative methods include hiring border collies to chase the geese and egg-oiling, a process where eggs are coated with oil, preventing them from hatching.
Nancy Prior, an educator who lives in Islip and is also an Islip High School alumna, spoke at the vigil of her tax dollars going towards killing geese.
“The school is between ponds, you have to expect that you’re going to have wildlife, and that should be okay,” said Prior.
“To find out that my school district used my money to kill these animals is the exact opposite of what I do every single day. It’s just appalling to me, and I hope that the community will stand up and continue to pressure them, and be the voice and not be silent and not turn a shoulder or not want to ruffle a feather.”
Activists at the vigil brought up how when the geese were killed, they were at their most vulnerable. During the summer, geese molt their feathers, rendering them unable to fly.
Also on hand at the vigil was New York State senator from the 4th District, Phil Boyle.
“To see this is beyond tragic,” Boyle said “Over 200 Canada geese destroyed here and some at their most vulnerable. This is not what Long Islanders, this is not what humans should want, ever.”
After the vigil, activists planned to meet and speak at the school board meeting later that day to confront the people who voted for the killing. Only one school board member, Matthew Clareen, did not vote for the killing.
“They [the geese] have their own voices,” Di Leonardo said. “They’re not voices that humans can always understand, but humans can understand our voices. We’re going to use our voices loud and clear today at the school board meeting.”
“Whether it happens here or any other school district, we will be there calling you on it, calling accountability for those in charge,” Boyle said. “We take the new superintendent here at his word that they’ll find a humane alternative.”