East Hawaii News

Invasive Species Group Seeks Axis Deer Funding

July 17, 2012, 2:05 PM HST
* Updated July 18, 9:02 AM
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The Big Island Invasive Species Committee is seeking $160,000 in state funding to help eradicate the nascent axis deer population on the island.

The Big Island group wants to eradicate the deer before their population can inflict damage on agriculture. Maui officials have estimated that deer have cost ranchers and farmer on that island more than $1 million over the past two years.

The presence of axis deer on the Big Island was confirmed through a photograph a little over a year ago in Ka`u.

The BIISC, with the assistance of the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and conservation and agriculture organizations, instituted an eradication program earlier this year using sharpshooters trained by hunters on Molokai. They bagged their first deer in April, although officials have declined to comment on the location.

The Associated Press reported that the funding was part of $260,000 being sought from the Hawai`i Invasive Species Council to fight axis deer on the Big Island and Maui.

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The funding is part of a $2.9 million funding request to the state council. However, budget cuts have reduced HISC’s budget for the current fiscal year to $1.8 million.

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According to Page Else, a public outreach specialist for the Big Island committee, axis deer have been reported in virtually all Big Island districts including Puna.

Although the only confirmed sighting was in Ka`u, signs of their scat, rubbings and tracks have been found in North Kohala, the November 2011 report said.

It is believed that the deer were smuggled to the Big Island, likely from Maui. However, because an investigation is ongoing, a DLNR spokeswoman declined to comment on that issue.

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A reward of $2,500 has been offered for the arrest and conviction of anyone responsible for the release of axis deer on the Big Island.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie last month signed a bill that makes it illegal to possess or transport deer inter-island.

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