Hawaii Volcanoes Releases Plan for Animal Control
by Dave Smith
The National Park Service has issued a plan and environmental impact statement for the management of ungulates (mainly hoofed mammals) in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The effort is aimed at protecting and restoring native ecosystems through the control of the non-native animals.
The plan and EIS are targeting goats, pigs, sheep, mouflon sheep, cattle and deer that they say destroy habitat, inhibit the regeneration of native forests and contribute to the local extinction of vulnerable species.
“Non-native ungulates detract from the natural conditions that contribute to the wilderness character of the park through the loss of native species and damage to the ecological integrity of the area,” the document said. “Non-native ungulates also have the potential to damage cultural resources at the park, which include archeological sites, cultural landscapes, and ethnographic resources.”
The plan considered five alternatives which included a “no-action” option representing no change in the current strategy established in 1974 which entails the use of both fencing and lethal control such as shooting.
According to the document, the alternatives were formulated through a process that involved a planning team and feedback from the public, scientific community and other government agencies.
The preferred alternative is one that gives park managers the most flexibility in its choice of a combination of fencing and lethal control methods. As with the other four alternatives, the objective would be the total removal of ungulates – or as near to that as practicable – in managed areas.
That alternative would also provide for volunteer assistance in the removal of ungulates through hunting and possibly through relocation of animals.
It calls for complete fencing of the boundaries of the Ola`a and Kahuku rainforests in Volcano and Ka`u, respectively, and potential use of internal fencing in other areas.
The document details the history of ungulate control in Hawaii Volcanoes which include the removal of more than 17,000 goats from the park over a four-year period beginning in 1927. After the use of private hunters proved to be ineffective, control efforts resumed in 1938 through a Civilian Conservation Corps program that used organized drives combined with fencing.
After another unsuccessful program that allowed private companies to round up and sell the goats, the park relied solely on staff for control efforts from 1955 to 1970. That resulted in the removal of an additional 30,000 goats but still left more than 14,000 of the animals inside the park’s boundary.
Pig eradication was also ongoing from 1930 to 1971 when roughly 7,000 pigs were removed.
In the 1970s, the current control strategy was developed which included the use of both boundary and internal fencing to isolate populations combined with shooting by staff and volunteers. That has resulted in the elimination of nearly all goats below the 9,000-foot elevation and pigs from about 40,000 fenced acres, the document said.
The addition of the 115,000-acre Kahuku Unit to the park in 2004 created new challenges as large numbers of mouflon sheep and feral pigs, goats and cattle were present in the area.
Officials said the National Park Service will issue a notice about its final choice of alternatives following a 30-day waiting period.