A June 10 letter writer rightfully calls for decisive action to address the widespread impact of the ever-growing axis deer population. Despite hunting on ranches and golf courses, numbers continue to soar out of control, stressing Maui's watershed ecosystems, vegetable farms, fruit orchards, grazing pastures and motorists.
Maui County Ag Specialist Kenneth Yamamura's recent survey indicated millions of dollars in losses and money spent on fencing and other control measures by Maui County farmers and ranchers. Yamamura is a member of the Maui Axis Deer Working Group, which has met for the past 18 months to devise strategies for deer control. Recently the dedicated group of farmers, ranchers, environmentalists, government representatives and others has redoubled its efforts, striving to complete its draft management plan and to write a proposal for potential funding by the Hawaii Invasive Species Council.
In January, Mayor Alan Arakawa sent a budget amendment proposal to the County Council seeking $150,000 for a multifaceted plan that included a trained team of hunters to cull the herds, and meeting U.S. Department of Agriculture certification criteria to establish a viable venison market for local restaurants, groceries and farmers markets. Several County Council members expressed interest in supporting such a plan, but had sufficient questions about the details, so it was tabled until after their lengthy budget review.
Funding for deer control is urgently needed, and we'll continue to seek creative, humane and economically feasible solutions. The time to act is now.
Maui County Environmental Coordinator