Maui News

Maui Axis Deer Pilot Program Update

November 26, 2012, 9:29 AM HST
* Updated November 26, 9:34 AM
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Axis deer, file photo courtesy The Nature Conservancy and DLNR.

[flashvideo file= /] By Wendy Osher

The county of Maui launched the Maui Axis Deer Harvesting Cooperative in October as a pilot program to control the invasive species, with the hopes of turning the pest into a resource.

Maui Now sat down with Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa after the first deer was taken to the slaughterhouse at the end of October, and updated us on the progress of the program.

Interview with Maui Mayor Alan Arakawa:

“There are actually several groups that are trying to get involved in trying to do the culling of the deer and animal management.  From my understanding, the first deer to go to the slaughterhouse happened last week (at the end of October). 

It’s going to be something that’s going to be improved on and continuously worked on.  With the deer eradication, culling process, what we are trying to do is get the areas where we have excessive amounts of deer, where we don’t want them–in people’s farms, back-yards, areas where they can cause a lot of mischief–we’re trying to make sure that we take out the deer in those areas first.  If nothing else, what the effort does is it moves the deer herd to an area where it’s much more sustainable for us to be able to control it. 

So, if we can chase them out of all of the individual’s yards, and out of the farms, then, at the very least, they won’t be causing millions of dollars in destruction.  We are moving in that direction.  Funding has been in place for a lot of it–there’s more funding that’s going to be necessary, of course; but, we’re working on it, and we’ll just see how the program evolves.

There’s been a lot of discussion about bringing in more equipment, and improving the situation.  Even on Molokai, there’s discussion and requests to try and come in with more mill slaughter houses, and trying to be able to get to the meat if the animals are killed in a fashion that will allow marketing of the animals.  This is something that we really want to be able to emphasize.  We don’t want to waste any of the deer meat if the animals have to be shot for one reason or another. 

Again, we are doing this in a very controlled manner.  Only people that are very highly qualified are being allowed to participate.  A lot of people have asked if they can go in and join this because they think it’s a great hunting party; but this is a very calculated group that’s there, that are really experts in what they are doing. 

The pilot has to be short term.  The pilot program is something that we do have a limited time on it; but the intent is to grow the pilot into a permanent program. 

The deer population estimates, depending on who you talk to–it’s very hard to get an exact number because the deer are literally overrunning the entire island now.  We’re seeing deer in everyplace from Hana to Kapalua, and there are estimates of between 25,000 and 60,000 animals, depending on who you talk to and where you get the information from. 

Again, there’s no precise accurate amount–a lot of it is estimation; but I can tell you that there have been reports, especially in the Ulupalakua area, of animals 10,000 to 20,000 herds.  So, there’s huge populations.  

Again, we’re very concerned that if we don’t do something to manage the animals we’re going to find a lot of dead animals because of starvation as we get further into the dry periods.”

Meantime, on the island of Lana‘i, where hunting is already established, state officials have announced an open application period for the 2013 hunting season.  The deadline for submitting applications is at 4 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012.

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