Hunters hired to control invasive species on Hawaii island have killed their first axis deer.
The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday the deer was captured in the southern part of the island.
Big Island Invasive Species Committee Manager Jan Schipper declined to say specifically where the deer was killed to prevent interference with the committee’s two hunters.
The animal native to India and Sri Lanka was first introduced to Molokai and Oahu in 1868, Lanai in 1920, and Maui in 1959, but they hadn’t been found on the Big Island until last year.
Non-native mammals such as like pigs and goats already damage the island’s environment. But axis deer are a new type of menace in part because they’re so large they can jump over fences that are meant to protect native forests.
State officials are developing plans to remove axis deer in Hawaii County before damage becomes significant to ranch grasslands, farm crops and plants that are vital to maintain watershed areas.
“We will need to take quick and effective action to prevent costly and destructive impacts on the Big Island that will last for generations, perhaps forever,” said William Aila, director of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Kahua Ranch Ltd. Chairman Monte Richards said axis deer can cause great damage to Hawaii island’s forest in Kohala and become difficult to remove once they’re established.
“The thing is to get to them early, and you’ve got a chance,” Richards said.
Richards said Hawaii island ranchers successfully fought against the idea of importing axis deer in the 1960s. He suspects the axis deer were illegally shipped to the island in recent years by someone who wanted the animal for game hunting.
State conservation officials working closely with trackers and using game cameras to survey areas in recent weeks have confirmed the presence of axis deer across the island, including in Kohala, Kau, Kona and Mauna Kea.
Conservation Council for Hawaii News Release
The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is proposing revisions to Hawaii Administrative Rules relating to hunting and game, and asking the public for their feedback. This is an opportunity to urge the state to change the hunting and game management paradigm to reduce the damage caused by introduced continental feral ungulates and game mammals, and provide more opportunities for hunters to help control animals and bring home the meat.
Drought is a farmer’s worst nightmare. But imagine the few plants that make it through the summer are then eaten by something other than your family or customers.
On top of a dry summer, the Molokai agriculture community is facing a deer problem – lack of water and food in their usual habitat has driven deer into the fields for nourishment at the farmer’s expense.
“The problem is there’s not a whole lot you can do about it,” said Rick Tamanaha, owner of Kaleikoa Farms in Ho`olehua. “They’ve actually stopped me from planting for 2010. They’ve shut me down.”
Tamanaha said he will be installing an electric fence to ward off the deer. This is one of many problems that come with farming that he prepares for.
“If it’s not deer it’s going to be something else,” he added. “You take the good years, and you [have] to take the bad years.”
The number of deer heading into farms and people’s gardens may be disturbing, but the problem isn’t overpopulation, according to a few hunters familiar with the west end. A contractor for the Molokai Ranch said at last count two years ago, there were 8,000 deer on the west end.
The dry summer has caused the worst deer pressure for many farmers in recent memory.
“All these years, we’ve never had a deer problem,” said Grant Schule, owner of Kumu Farms. His plan of attack: “We’re just kind of moving crops around…basically we’re running from them.”