Solutions for wild ungulate control are slowly but surely taking shape as axis deer populations rapidly increase and create havoc for farmers and ranchers in Maui County.
Funding will soon be available for local farmers and ranchers, and plans are underway to put fences around places like Kula Agricultural Park to help protect crops from foraging deer.
“The (Maui Axis Deer) Task Force has been working to manage and control the Axis Deer problem while working to find additional funding and resources to help address the problem,” Infrastructure and Transportation Committee Chairman Yuki Lei Sugimura said Monday morning. “The task force worked on short- and long-term mitigation efforts and conducted research to foster a better understanding of the myriad problems caused by deer overpopulation.”
For the fiscal year 2023 budget, Mayor Michael Victorino made a $1.5 million budget amendment to help farmers and ranchers deal with the impacts of axis deer, Sugimura said.
The $1.5 million will be facilitated by fiscal sponsor Lokahi Pacific, which will award up to $30,000 per Maui County nominee until funds are exhausted.
“I’m glad we’re here” Sugimura said. “We can begin to take the steps we need to mitigate and control the wildlife problem that is happening here in Maui County.”
Grant money can be used to offset financial shortfalls caused by loss of livestock feed, death of livestock, destruction of farms, reduction of crop fields, and other damage to farm assets caused directly by the overpopulation of axis deer since July 1, 2021, executive director of Lokahi Pacific says Susie Thieman.
The grant can also be used to fund the labor, fuel, and equipment needed to restore the farmer or rancher’s operations.
Applicants must be a “living” Ranch or farm of 12 to 40 acres located in Maui, Molokai or Lanai. Thieman said she believes this is the first time farm properties of this size have been offered a county subsidy.
Equity will be ensured between the three islands and a portion of the grants will be given in priority to minority groups, such as native Hawaiians, as well as to women.
“We need to have relief and recovery,” said Thieman.
Applications open Wednesday and the deadline to apply online or by mail is mid-August. Applications will be available on lokahipacific.com by noon Wednesday, and Thieman recommends filing as soon as possible due to high demands for financial support.
“We know from the number of phone calls we received the first time the council had this on the agenda, we know there are a lot of people waiting for it,” a- he added. she says. “We have a list – I’m not even going to tell you how long it lasts – of emails and phone numbers that I’m supposed to call as soon as they become available.”
Maui County Animal Scientist and Livestock Extension Officer Kyle Caires told the committee meeting Monday that the situation with axis deer is “still really bad.”
With increasingly frequent droughts, and with another dry spell to come in July, even well-managed pastures are being toppled by wild ungulates.
“Although there are some green spaces on the island, the inventory of pastures is relatively low”, said Cairos. “The ranchers have been resting the pastures as best they can and the axis deer are getting in front of the cattle and basically taking advantage of all the rested forage there.”
From the point of view of animal productivity, this becomes “increasingly hard” because farmers are weaning their calves early to give their cows more time to bounce back, he said, which translates to less value for the calves and more cost for supplemental feed to support livestock health .
Public health is also a concern as vehicle crashes with deer on the roadway increase, according to the Maui Police Department, Sugimura said.
Potential contact with parasites and pathogens that deer can carry is also a health hazard to humans and livestock, Caires said.
“As these deer continue to proliferate in numbers, there are profound and indirect effects, ramifications, on human health as well as negative effects on agricultural industries,” Caires said, adding that he has observed increasing numbers in Haiku, Peahi, West Maui and Camp Maluhia.
The actual number of deer on the island has been difficult for local authorities to assess. An ungulate management company that surveyed over 250,000 acres in Maui County estimated in 2020 that Maui had around 35,000 to 50,000 deer. Sugimura said that according to Jeff Bagshaw of the State Department of Lands and Natural Resources Forestry and Wildlife Division, there are nearly 200,000 roaming axis deer on Maui.
“He estimated that we need to cull or control around 20,000 people a year just to keep the population where it is, so the government has a big job to help bring the numbers down,” she says. “I really think we can make it happen.”
Although many efforts to manage wild ungulates have been made at the county level, such as grazing management and grazing restoration, Caires said there is a need for a state-level wildlife management plan. which would designate responsibility, identify wildlife management areas, create best practices for processing deer for meat and for inspections, facilitate trapping and fencing on a larger scale, and enable the DLNR and the Ministry of Agriculture to enforce the rules.
“It becomes much simpler in terms of control,” he said. “It’s a multi-faceted problem and it will require an even more multi-faceted solution, and ultimately that means more jobs. We can count on the success of agriculture over the next decade or two, but everyone has to be on board.
Sugimura said a bill calling for a Hawaii-wide management plan and state inspectors failed to pass the state House of Representatives during the legislative session. this year, but state and county officials plan to go back to the drawing board to reintroduce the legislation.
Public funding of $2.8 million has already been allocated to the Kula Farm Park project, as well as a new park in Maui’s backcountry, which is expected to begin construction in August once materials are available. and supplies will have arrived, Sugimura said.
She said the aim of the project is to minimize the negative impacts of wild animals in the park by constructing a fence for the two parks and developing a management plan over the next four to six months that addresses specific control methods. to the needs of the region. .
Collaborations between federal, state and county officials to build fences have proven successful, she noted, including at the Kahului airport earlier this year.
“I recently met with (Maui District Airports Manager) Marvin Moniz and he said, and I was surprised, but he said they’re still trying to control axis deer around from the airport and they were able to control 500.” Sugimura said. “I wanted to thank Marvin Moniz and this group who continue to try to control and alleviate the axis deer problem around the airport because as you can guess if there were any disruptions with the airlines, it would be a big accident waiting to happen. .
“It only underscores the need to control axis deer problems.”
* Dakota Grossman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.