Axis deer a growing nuisance on Maui

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August 20, 2002

Axis deer a growing nuisance on Maui



The axis deer, found on nearby Moloka'i as well, is multiplying quickly on Maui — and so is the damage it does.

By Timothy Hurley, Honolulu Advertiser Maui County Bureau

KIHEI, Maui — A committee of land managers and public agency officials is urging the state to contain Maui's axis deer population before it leads to greater safety, economic and environmental consequences.

A newly released report by the Maui Axis Deer Group says the state needs to come up with an islandwide management plan and pay for efforts to deal with the problem.

The group will present the report's findings at a 6:30 p.m. meeting Aug. 29 at the Kihei Community Center.

The growing population of axis deer on Maui has created concerns ranging from vehicle accidents, property damage, poaching, disease, crop damage and threats to native species and ecosystems.

It was the state, in a move to establish new hunting opportunities, that introduced five axis deer to Maui in 1959 and four the next year.

Today, thousands of the animals roam the island, from Hana to Kapalua, said Steven B. Anderson, a University of California at Davis wildlife biologist who studied the Maui deer in the late 1990s for his doctoral thesis. He estimated the deer population is doubling every four years.

"The deer are the next really serious problem with feral animals,'' said Jennifer Talken-Spaulding, public information officer at Haleakala National Park, which has seen an increasing number of deer encroaching on the park.

According to the Maui Axis Deer Group report, the introduction of axis deer on Maui has caused at least $100,000 in losses to the private sector. It calls on the state Department of Land and Natural Resources to create a comprehensive plan to address the problem.

Bill Evanson, Maui manager for DLNR's Natural Area Reserves and a committee member, said the report recommends that proposals be submitted to obtain money to hire a consultant to write such a plan. It would follow a process similar to Mainland efforts to deal with whitetail deer.

The report was written by members of three separate subcommittees. The subcommittee that examined natural resource management suggested that the state put up miles of fencing to keep the deer from watershed areas, endangered plants, roads, crops and neighborhoods. Hunting zones would then be established within the fenced areas.

Committee member Lee Altenberg said hunters are likely to initially object to the fencing proposal, fearing it would limit where deer could roam. But he believes it would ensure access for hunters — something that isn't always the case now because most of the deer are found on private land.
 


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