CONWAY — State Fish and Game Col. Kevin Jordan Thursday clarified Fish and Game’s decision not to charge several Kennett High School students with killing a duck last month while at football camp.
Jordan, who oversees the law enforcement division at Fish and Game, said one student had tried to put the duck out of its misery after it was attacked by others.
The Sun learned that from three to six Eagles would be suspended from playing in some football games as punishment for the attack on the animal. None of the boys suspended was a senior.
All had attended a Kennett High-sponsored football camp held on the grounds of Camp Winaukee in Moultonborough from Aug. 20-22.
Jordan wanted to make it clear that Fish and Game and the school was not ignoring the problem. He said the school district is bound to student confidentiality.
“There are a lot more things done than people think,” said Jordan. “It was a lot more than a one-game suspension.”
William Hoch, an attorney for Camp Winaukee, told the Sun on Wednesday that “Kennett High School leased the premises of Camp Winaukee, after our camp season concluded, to hold their school-sponsored training camp for their football team.
“The owners and management of Camp Winaukee had no involvement with the operations or supervision of the football camp or its attendees.”
The duck-killing incident, which was posted on the internet, involved the animal being lured by a group of boys out of the waters of Lake Winnipesaukee’s Moultonborough Bay.
It was beaten with a broomstick and later strangled to death.
Jordan spoke to the Sun by phone on Thursday afternoon.
“In my opinion, the school took some very appropriate steps right away,” said Jordan.
Among those steps, said Jordan, was issuing one to five game suspensions. He added that some of the boys would be doing community service, which he believed would be at the Conway Area Humane Society, and he felt was “very appropriate” as they could learn to care for animals.
He said that it’s his understanding that there will not be football camp next year or maybe ever again.
However, reached Thursday, Conway Area Humane Society Executive Director Tim Westwig confirmed there had been discussion between a coach and the humane society about the possibility of students doing community service there, but Westwig said that would violate the society’s policy barring people with history of abusing animals from volunteering.
He does appreciate that the boys are to do some community service.
“This is not the appropriate place for that,” said Westwig.
Jordan said the where the community service would take place would have to be worked out between local parties.
Jordan said the killing of the duck was done by a young man who desired to put the bird out of its misery after it had been struck by someone else. Jordan said that boy “acted with courage” and that he stopped a group that was harassing the duck.
“He felt he had no options but to strangle it to put it down because he didn’t want to see it suffer,” said Jordan.
“My first opinion of this when I heard of it was they beat a duck and strangled it when actually that’s not exactly true. The duck was injured from the beating it received, and this young man felt the only way was to stop that suffering was to put the duck down. So he strangled it.”
Jordan said he was happy with the school’s action as the school issued punishments while the court would not be able to.
If summonses were given to the students, the fines would be borne by the parents.
“In my 30 years of doing this business, that doesn’t teach the kids a whole lot,” said Jordan. “It’s a much better consequence if you can hold the kids responsible for their own actions.”
Jordan stood by Fish and Game Conservation Officer Sgt. Alex Lopashanski’s decision not to charge the parents.
“In my opinion, that was a good decision,” said Jordan. “Sgt. Lopashanski is a very good officer. ... He is a fair-minded individual.”
After talking to SAU 9 Superintendent Kevin Richard, Jordan said the school is taking the right steps to prevent this from happening.
Asked about what the chaperones were doing when the boys tormented the duck, Jordan said that’s the school’s job, not Fish and Game.
He praised the school for jumping on the incident and doing its own investigation and acting on it. He said typically schools want law enforcement to do that work.
Richard told the Sun Thursday he was unhappy with the Sun’s handling of the story and that he could not and would not divulge any confidential student information.
Asked about New Hampshire’s animal cruelty law and how it could apply to this case, Jordan said a better-fitting statute would be the taking of a waterfowl illegally.
The definition of “take” is broad and includes chasing, injuring and killing. He said the offense would be a violation punishable by fine.
According to the Humane Society of the United States, the animal cruelty law only covers a “wild animal in captivity,” but that wouldn’t necessarily apply to the duck.
Last year, the Humane Society of the United States supported failed legislation intended to address the loophole.