Goat Prank Closes NC High School Football Field for 6 Months

ABC News

Athletes at Burns High School in Lawndale, N.C. aren't too happy about having to find a new home for their games after a recent prank on the school's football field.

Last week, sometime between Thursday night and early Friday morning, several unnamed students released 10 to 12 goats onto the school's field in Ron Greene Stadium, which caused the school to officially close the field for the next six months.

Donna Carpenter, the school system's public information officer, said a recent outbreak of E. coli in the county prompted the extended closure.

"We had some students who, as a prank, put some goats out on the football field," Carpenter told ABCNews.com. "You have to understand what's been going on in this area. This county has a very large county fair. And this is a historically agricultural community.

"We have people who see and pet different animals, and there has been just shy of 100 cases of E. coli. There was a small child that passed away. Everybody was very on edge about E. coli."

The Cleveland County Health Department inspected the field after the goats were captured and, at the state's recommendation, determined it was best to close the stadium for at least five months because that's how long it takes for the virus to die.

"The goats were released on the field overnight," said Dorothea Wyant, director of the Cleveland County Health Department. "So no one can really say exactly where those goats went to. So it was closed for precautionary reasons because goats do shed E. coli naturally.

"We do not know where the goats were on the field at the time, and if they were shedding E. coli. It was in the grass, and although they tried to clean it up as best as possible, it still could be there."

She continued, "There's no germicide or anything that you could put on the grass or soil that could kill E. coli. On a sidewalk or concrete, there is a bleach solution that would work, but not in grass."

The high school's football season is coming to a close tonight with a scheduled away game.

"They were in the position to host some playoff games, but this means they can't have a playoff game at their school anymore," Carpenter said. "Last week's game had to be moved to another school. All of our high schools have come in to help out. But it's just been an inconvenience. They're losing the home field advantage."

The goats were taken from the school, where they are housed for the Future Farmers of America program, and have safely been returned there after being found on the field.

"Everybody's got to get past this and move forward," Carpenter said. "It's safety. If there is a threat there we just have to be mindful of that. Nobody knew this was going to happen, and these students didn't either. It's happened, we need to move forward."