Lawmakers working to manage deer population in Maui County

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MOLOKAI, HAWAII (KHON2) — Officials continue to look for ways to handle axis deer numbers in Maui County. The island of Molokai has been hit particularly hard with struggling to control the invasive species.

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Lawmakers said, there are funds available to help and they are hoping to create a plan to effectively bring the numbers down without eradicating them since they are considered a vital food source for the Molokai community.

According to Rep. Lynn DeCoite, mismanagement of the growing deer population and severe drought through summer and fall caused hundreds to starve to death — the animals literally drop dead on the side of the road.

DeCoite said, the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW) have been on Molokai.

“They’ve been working with Molokai Ranch and their employees to coordinate some of the hunts to take down those (deer) that are not as healthy or starving,” DeCoite explained.

She said, State and County services have also worked to remove and bury the carcasses.

“There has been challenges, but I think with the rain that we’ve had, it’s been really good, I think the rain has helped,” DeCoite said.” There’s a huge difference. There’s not as much deer on the side of the road, you’re starting to see the greenery come back.”

The problem has not gone away, however. Molokai resident Jordan Koa Manaba said, the deer are still everywhere.

“They’re trying to figure out what they can eat and where they can go. So they’re always in residence trying to get everything,” Manabe explained.

DeCoite said, she and Sen. Kalani English have been talking to Hawaii Gov. David Ige. Ige is considering signing an emergency proclamation but he is waiting for a report from the Game Management Advisory Commission, according to DeCoite.

“You have to figure out the rippling effect of what the dear have done to farms — its totally crippled many farms on Molokai,” DeCoite said.

Maui County Council earmarked $1 million in County funds for feral animal control. Each island in Maui County will be given $300,000 going with the final $100,000 designated for a feral animal assessment study.

“Each entity that does apply for it, you hope that they have the best interests of trying to make sure there is a proper management plan and that they have worked before with the landowners,” DeCoite explained.

DeCoite said, work needs to be done on Molokai even though the situation is not as bad as on Lanai and Maui.

“We don’t want to wait till it gets bad,” she said. “We want prevention measures. And that’s really what it’s all about. We prevent it by managing it and managing it the right way.”

Manaba said, he hopes Molokai residents and hunters will stop hunting only bucks to collect the horns as trophies.

“One buck can breed hundreds of does,” Manaba said. “So we got to start realizing that the does is the problem and start targeting the doe population.”

DeCoite said, she hopes to hear more about what the DLNR is doing to manage the axis deer population during the Senate and House informational briefing Monday at 1 p.m.

To learn more about the feral animal control grant program, click here.

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