East Hawaii News

Aerial Shooting of Sheep on Mauna Kea Scheduled

January 20, 2014, 4:57 PM HST
* Updated January 21, 8:47 AM
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The state Department of Land and Natural Resources is preparing for another round of sheep eradication on the slopes of Mauna Kea.

Shooting of the feral sheep and feral-mouflon sheep hybrids from helicopters is required by a federal court order to protect the habitat for the endangered palila, a type of honeycreeper unique to Hawaii.

The control efforts are scheduled for Jan. 22-23, Feb. 5-6 and March 19-20.

Carcasses taken during the shoot will be available for salvage by members of the public with the proper permits.

Four-wheel-drive vehicles are required for the access. According to the DLNR, there is no guarantee that animals will be able to be salvaged.

Access to the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve, the Kaohe Game Management Area and Mauna Kea Access Road will be restricted to those with permits.

The DLNR said due to high public participation, telephone call-ins to the Division of Forestry and Wildlife office in Kamuela Office to obtain salvage permits will be conducted up to 10 a.m. the day before each shoot day.  One permit will be issued per call per vehicle for one day only.

Call the office at (808) 887-6063 for the permits. Information required includes the names of the driver and occupants, the vehicle license plate number and make and model of vehicle.

Applicants can have their names added to a stand-by list for additional days. No standbys waiting at the gates will be allowed access.

A maximum of 15 permitted vehicles will be allowed at the Pu‘u Ko‘ohi location and 10 permitted vehicles at the Kaluamakani location.

Salvage locations and other information is available here.

A palila atop a mamane tree. DLNR photo.

A palila atop a mamane tree. DLNR photo.

The control efforts are the result of a 1978 federal court order to reduce the population of ungulates which were eating new shoots of the mamane tree, which is critical to the palila’s survival.

The ruling came as a result of a lawsuit filed by environmentalists.

The aerial shooting was also the subject of a ban approved by the Hawaii County Council in June 2012.

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The ban was supported by hunters who argued that removal of too many ungulates would allow the spread of grasses which increased the chance of wildfires which in turn threaten the palila population.

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They also criticized the past practice of leaving carcasses on the mountain to rot as wasteful.

However, in April 2013, a federal judge said that the 1978 ruling takes precedence over the county ordinance and ruled that aerial shooting to protect the palila could continue.

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