In the last two years, axis deer on Maui have caused at least $1 million in damage to the island's farms, ranches and resorts, according to a survey by Kenneth Yamamura, an agricultural specialist in the Maui County Office of Economic Development.
Yamamura surveyed 26 farms and five ranches on Maui and eight resorts total from Maui and Lanai. He said not all of the farms and ranches contacted for information responded to surveys, so the actual extent of damage is probably greater.
Yamamura submitted his written report to the Hawaii Invasive Species Council to show the extent of Maui's axis deer problem. The council held its first Neighbor Island meeting Tuesday in Pukalani.
Bobby Aradon pulls weeds in a Chinese cabbage patch Wednesday afternoon at Triple N Farms Inc. in Kula. Although a fence has helped control most deer problems at the farm, the patch recently suffered a setback when a herd trampled young plants.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
A draft management plan to control the axis deer on Maui is scheduled to be put together by the Maui Axis Deer Working Group by July. It will then be presented to the council for review. Tentative plans also call for presenting the report to the state Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Yamamura said axis deer have been a problem in the islands for decades, but no one keeps exact records of the extent of their damage.
And, he noted, not everyone has a problem with axis deer, for now.
"It's only a matter of time. That's the scary part. It will impact every nook and cranny," he said.
People have reported axis deer munching on crops, chewing away at pineapple in the fields, eating grapes off of vines and even appearing in hotel lobbies in Wailea and running around on golf courses.
According to survey results, Maui farmers reported that axis deer have caused $306,000 in crop damages in 2011 and 2012. Farmers reported spending $257,000 on mitigation measures, mostly putting up fencing, Yamamura said.
But he added that it is difficult for all farmers to put up fences to keep the deer out because a lot of them lease the property, unlike farm owners who can put up a fence and keep it as an improvement for life.
Yamamura said the estimated numbers are "grossly understated" because the survey did not capture a large portion of farmers.
Five ranches on Maui reported $496,000 in deer damage in 2011 and 2012. Ranchers reported mitigation measures, mostly fencing, costing $610,000.
In addition to the axis deer issue, ranchers are dealing with a severe, ongoing drought, which has at least one ranch selling its cattle, Yamamura said.
As for resorts on Maui and Lanai, which sometimes see herds of deer running across their golf courses, they estimated damage at $183,000 over the last two years. And $81,000 was spent for mitigation measures.
DLNR officials said the axis deer population on Lanai is being managed through the Division of Forestry and Wildlife's recreational hunting program in the cooperative game management area on lands leased from the Lanai Co. The department also is working to install a fence to protect forest watersheds on the island.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.