A small Hawaiian island was forced to cancel Friday night football games indefinitely after the federal government threatened to prosecute high school athletic officials for not protecting an endangered bird.
So instead of playing high school football under the Friday night lights, teenagers in Kauai County are forced to endure dangerously hot conditions and play their games on Saturday afternoons.
According to federal wildlife authorities, the stadium lights were causing confusion among flocks of the Newell shearwater, an endangered sea bird. During their migration to the ocean, the birds use the moon and stars for navigation.
However, the younger birds apparently have been mistaking the football stadium lights for Big Dipper. The end result – lots of dead birds.
The U.S. Justice Department notified the Kauai Interscholastic Federation five years ago that they were in violation of the Endangered Species Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
According to the Associated Press, local officials failed to install shielded lights that shine down on the field. Their failure to do so has resulted in untold numbers of bird deaths.
Both sides managed to work out an agreement – but it is expected to take another year for the appropriate lights to be installed. And until that happens, Kauai County will be fined for every bird that meets its maker during football games.
“This is a serious situation, and we are on a trajectory to extinction with this species if we don’t take real responsible action,” Scott Fretz, Hawaii’s wildlife program manager told the Associated Press.
But local residents are outraged that their beloved sport has been moved to a weekend day. Many have started wearing t-shirts that read, “Buck the Firds.”
“Because we’re in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, we don’t have much to offer our kids,” parent Lori Koga told the AP. “On a Friday night, this is what our kids would look forward to do. And then they took that away from us.”
Others have accused the government of caring more about birds than humans.
“They chose the bird over our keiki,” resident Rick Rapozo told the AP – using the Hawaiian word for children.
Now, games are played on Saturday afternoon – in stifling heat – forcing coaches to take measures to prevent heatstroke.
“It’s hot,” football player Travis Koga told AP. “And you get all tired. You cannot focus. I think it’s best – Friday night lights. Not Saturday day football. It’s Friday night lights.”
In the meantime, the birds have been saved – but the locals are just hoping they don’t lose any humans to the heat.