HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of Land and Natural Resources continues to investigate a report of the mysterious feline spotted on Hawaii Island. This comes as another invasive species, a skunk, was found on Maui.
On Tuesday, the DLNR put up cameras and bait for the cat in the rural Holualoa area of the Big Island above Kailua-Kona — where on Sunday morning a Hawaii man reported seeing a large wildcat. The man and DLNR have yet to see the cat again, but if it is seen the DLNR plans on using dogs to track it down.
“We don’t have dogs trained for it here if it’s something confirmed we can look into bringing in professionals that do have dogs trained for that purpose to help us,” DLNR Wildlife Biologist Kanalu Sproat said.
University of Hawaii at Manoa Assistant Professor Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management Melissa Price looked at the photos that were taken of the animal but was not able to determine what it is due to the blurry images. The paw prints do leave behind some clues.
“I’ve seen paw prints like pumas in South America and those ones that you put your hand inside, it’s outside the ring of your hand so quite larger animals,” Price said. “So to me, this looks like a smaller wildcat compared to some of those really large ones.”
Even if it isn’t as big as a puma, a wildcat could be dangerous to our ecosystem by spreading infections like Toxoplasmosis to Hawaiian monk seals or becoming predators to other animals.
“They are major predators and they eat a diverse array of whatever they can get their mouths on as far as animals go,” Price said.
It could also become something worse.
“This place is so isolated and it has evolved without predators of that size, everything would be at risk of being its prey even humans,” Sproat said.
On Monday another animal that can harm native species, a skunk, was trapped by DLNR officials at the Kanaha Pond State Wildlife Sanctuary on Maui.
“If there’s no other reason to get the public to care about biocontrol, skunks might be, or large cats,” Price said.
So how are things like this getting in? According to the Department of Agriculture, “While plant quarantine inspectors conduct inspection of agricultural material transported from the United States Mainland, they are not authorized to conduct routine inspections of shipping containers of other types of goods.”
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As for the reported wildcat, the DLNR said they will check cameras next week Monday unless the landowner notices anything before then. If you see anything you can report it to the DLNR at 643-PEST.