Tuesday, September 29, 2009

HAWAII NEWS: Axis Deer on the Rise

A major and expensive pest has placed state lands, Hawaiian home lands, public and private watersheds, golf courses, parks, ranches, farms and home gardens under siege.

However, it is an extremely cute creature to many. A delicacy to some. And a potential lawsuit to others.

It's the spotted axis deer. But don't ask for an accurate population estimate for Maui County; the experts' answers are mostly anecdotal. However, they agree that the introduced animal's numbers are spiraling out of control.

While hunting education classes are booked five months in advance, fewer people hunt today than a generation ago. And the animals are increasingly finding refuge in town parks and suburbia, where firearms use could land hunters behind bars.

As in other states, Hawai'i has made efforts to increase the number of hunters to deal with exploding deer populations, such as offering popular hunter education classes, no bag limits, a year-round hunting season and cheap licenses.

Jeffrey DeRego, Maui Hunters and Sportsman Club president, said one of the largest obstacles to controlling the deer population — as well as those of feral pigs and goats — is America's litigious society. Rather than allow hunters onto their land to cull the herds for free, large landowners are warned by their insurance companies against allowing individuals onto their properties, he said.

However, hunting is a visitor attraction on Maui as well. The 1,000-acre Arrow One Ranch in Kula and Maui Hunting Safari offer "exclusive" hunting grounds for "free-range prey," according to the businesses' Web sites.

State wildlife biologist Shane De Mattos said axis deer have not significantly affected native forests so far, although the potential is there. Still, deer have devoured some wild taro patches on Moloka'i, which were replaced by California scrub brush.

Source: Honolulu Advertiser

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