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By Robert Cornell

Hornell City School duck family drama explained by Palotti

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Readers have questioned the handling of the wild birds

By Andrew Harris

Inside the courtyard at the Hornell High School a wild duck has insisted on nesting and hatching her annual brood over the last several years. The school community has enjoyed the odd choice of a nesting location but also struggled with how to properly handle the wildlife. Last week the ducks hatched in the courtyard and school officials worked with the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation to remove the fowl. That move brought some concern from the community so we asked school Superintendent Jeremy Palotti for an update.

An official statement from the superintendent:

“For years, ducks have nested in school courtyards and for years, the school has worked to address the problem as they are wild animals and a school courtyard is not the environment suited for them as it lacks water and food supply for them to survive on their own.  

Over the years, the district has been in communication with the NYS DEC for guidance.  Last year,  workers from the DEC came to the school to remove the ducks.  They did this during the day and in reflection after this occured, it was deemed by them and us that this wasn’t the best way to resolve the situation.  

In our conversations with the DEC this year as we sought further advice, they advised us as to what we ought to do and we followed their direction.  

  • First, we were not to feed or water the animals. They are wild animals and a general rule is to not feed them.  We wouldn’t feed a skunk or raccoon that came into our courtyard, back yards, etc.   
  • Second, if they have a nest of eggs, we do nothing until those eggs hatch.  
  • Third, once the eggs hatched, we were instructed to open the courtyard doors and escort the baby ducks outside of the school and leave them there for their mother to guide them to a new, more appropriate home.  At no time should we leave food or water out for them. 

We followed their guidance and direction.  I can say that we did not improperly relocate the ducks, as we did as we were told by the DEC. 

I am fully aware that there are some individuals that had/have other opinions as to what should occur and/or what we should do.  I am aware they come from their viewpoints with the greatest of intentions.  However, we have been repeatedly instructed by the DEC to not feed or take care of wild animals as it only sets them up to not be able to survive when they leave the care of humans. Additionally, leaving the baby ducks in the courtyard without food would also result in their demise and the only solution is to let them go into the wild, which we did.  If the DEC changes their opinion and/or guidance or has something else to offer to improve things, we will gladly hear them out and follow their direction.”

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