By Wendy Osher
A standing-room-only crowd of nearly 100 people attended a public informational meeting on Maui last night to discuss issues surrounding feral cats and chickens on Maui.
“I think it was acknowledged that there’s not going to be an overnight solution, but that we really need to learn much more about it and gather some data, and find out what are the real trouble spots before we move forward,” said Maui Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons in a phone interview this morning.
Officials at the meeting noted that there would be followup discussion on the topic, and did not anticipate a solid solution coming out of last night’s meeting. Instead, officials said they hoped to gather information with the hopes of eventually implementing, “well-researched control methods be deployed in a strategic and humane manner.”
Parsons said his office has seen a definite increase in the number of concern calls and emails about both feral chickens and cats on Maui.
“Many in the audience seemed a little bit shocked or surprised that there is no legislation currently on the books that can limit chickens in a residential area,” said Parsons, who noted that the subject has been discussed by the Maui County Council many times, but that legislative action has not been taken on the issue.
“We feel that doing nothing is not acceptable, and that we really need to address what can be done and what has been done elsewhere that has worked,” he said.
According to Parsons, one of the common themes heard was a request for funding to spay and neuter cats in feral colonies.
“There are a few agencies that are doing so, but they’re asking for more help. One of the keys from the people with the Hawaiʻi Humane Society and the US Humane Society is that trap/neuter/release works when there is management attached as well,” said Parsons.
Officials say many of those in attendance shared the impact of feral animals in their particular neighborhood and in parks that they frequent.
“I think we might need management focus areas because what works in one area may not work so well in another area,” said Parsons. “We found a similar strategy in our draft management plan for axis deer, where we have to understand the areas and how certain areas are impacted,” he said.
Other officials who participated in the discussion were: Mayor Alan Arakawa; John Hadidian, PhD, senior scientist wildlife & habitat protection, The Humane Society of the United States; John Boone, PhD, senior biologist, Great Basin bird observatory biostatistical consultant, Humane Society International; Inga Gibson, Hawaiʻi director, The Humane Society of the United States; and Jocelyn Bouchard, CEO, Maui Humane Society.