Axis Deer Eradication Efforts Begin on Big Island

April 16, 2012, 9:35 AM HST · Updated April 16, 9:37 AM
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Axis deer, file photo courtesy The Nature Conservancy and DLNR.

By Wendy Osher

The state Department of Land and Natural Resources launched a partnership between conservation groups and the agricultural community to address the threat and impacts of axis deer on the Big Island.

The team is working toward the goal of eradicating the population on the island before farmers face the same problems now occurring on Maui, where deer populations are exploding.

“We only need to look at Maui to see the devastating impacts axis deer can have on local people, especially ranchers and farmers,” said DLNR Chairperson, William J. Aila, Jr. in a statement.

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“For the past year we have been chasing reports and leads about several deer populations on the Big Island, and we are very pleased to see the progress being made by the team. We are hopeful, with the community’s cooperation, that we can get all the deer off the Big Island before it’s too late,” he said.

Members of the partnership group reported the taking of the first axis deer on the Big Island on April 11, 2012, as part of an official program to remove the unwanted pests from the island.  This comes after nearly a year of field surveys, training and coordination with land owners and managers.

Jan Schipper, Big Island Invasive Species Committee manager, said, “We are fortunate to have two highly skilled marksmen working on this project, who were trained by hunters on Moloka‘i, to ensure that animals are treated as humanely as possible. We are not able to disclose the exact locations of deer we have sighted, or the animal that was shot, out of respect for cooperating landowners’ privacy.”

Axis deer are not native to Hawai‘i, and they are known pests of agriculture, as well as native and culturally significant endangered plants.

DLNR officials say the first attempt to bring axis deer to the Big Island for game hunting began in the 1950’s and 1960’s – a process which was halted by protests from the farming and ranching community who were already aware of the risks of this animal.

Officials with the state DLNR believe the axis deer spotted recently were smuggled to the Big Island and released by private individuals.

“This is an issue that needs immediate resolution by getting rid of the deer before they become a problem. I think this issue really emphasized the need to focus more attention on inter-island transportation issues to prevent this from happening again,” said Sen. Gil Kanahele.

Anyone who would like to report a suspected sighting of axis deer on the Big Island is encouraged to call (808) 936-2409.

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