Efforts to curb axis deer impacts on crops and private property are having unintended side effects as a suspected deer trap strangled to death a Kula family's dog last week.
Their other dog had his hind leg caught in a trap, and he lost circulation to his paw.
"I cannot bear (to) stand the thought (of) someone else, some other animal, a deer or domestic animal getting caught" in those kinds of traps, said Kula resident Brenna Tavares, whose dog died in an irreversible noose on private property along Omaopio Road.
Kula resident Brenna Tavares snuggles with her dog Rvca (pronounced Rooka) in a recent photo. Rvca died last week after getting caught in an apparent deer trap on private property along Omaopio Road. Tavares is worried about other animals and even children who may get hurt in the traps, which are made out of nylon mule tape and wire.
While Tavares understands that her dog, Rvca (pronounced Rooka), and her father's dog, Bud, which is slowly recovering from its leg injury, were unleashed and on private property when the incident happened, she called the traps inhumane and worried about other animals and even children getting hurt.
Tavares said the traps, made out of nylon mule tape and wire, were not near any crops but just off a driveway in an easily accessible area.
"Clearly they are set to kill anything that passes their path. Unfortunately in this case it was our dogs. Who's to say the next time a wandering child won't fall victim," she said in an email.
Although the incident occurred on private land and is not under the state Department of Land and Natural Resources jurisdiction, DLNR did send an enforcement officer to the property to look at the traps and document the case so that information could be provided to any agency with jurisdiction, said Deborah Ward, a DLNR spokeswoman.
She added that information about the property owner was not immediately available Friday.
The Maui News was unable to locate those who set up the traps, although one nearby nursery owner acknowledged that there is a problem with deer in the area and that workers do set up traps, although he did not know the type. He also was unaware of Tavares' dogs being caught in snares.
Warren Watanabe, executive director of the Maui County Farm Bureau, said he did not know of anyone using snares to capture deer.
"However, I feel this is symptomatic of the seriousness of the problem out there, whether it be our farmers and ranchers or homeowners fed up with damage to their yards," said Watanabe, a member of the Maui Axis Deer Working Group, which is putting together a draft management plan to control and minimize the impacts of axis deer.
According to DLNR estimates, there may be between 4,000 and more than 20,000 axis deer on Maui.
As for the working group, Watanabe said in an email Friday that snares have not come up as a control option.
"As a group, we have focused on a comprehensive management plan so as one tries to control it in one area, (the deer) do not head for another and cause unexpected consequences," Watanabe said. "This has been our priority with our farms and ranches abutting homes and hotels."
As for people and farmers trying to shoo away deer, Watanabe said the options he has heard being employed are fences, repellents (garlic oil mixed with other material commercially available) or scarecrows with used clothing.
In an email statement, the DLNR said it does not regulate deer hunting on private lands although hunters do need a hunting license and property owners' permission. Use of snares on private lands is up to the discretion of the property owner.
DLNR said the most successful ways to keep deer away is with fencing, hunting and dogs. The agency also cautioned people to make sure that they prevent impacts on nontarget species whatever control method they employ.
On Friday, Tavares was still grieving the loss of her 2 1/2-year-old tricolor female pit bull, which slept on the bed with her.
She said Bud, her father's 7-year-old male German shorthaired pointer, was at home after spending three days at the veterinarian's office. Its leg did not have to be amputated, but Tavares said that it was beginning to swell again.
Tavares said that her family's farm has problems with axis deer, but the farm tries to control them by putting up T-shirts with human scent.
"They just stay away," she said of the deer.
She said her family hunts deer using bow and arrow and guns.
Tavares recalled that the dogs went missing at about 8:30 a.m. June 30, about two hours after her father, Clarence Tavares, brought them to the farm with him.
She said most of the property is fenced and surrounded by a gulch on one side so the dogs roam free about the area. They usually don't stray too far, but on that day, they couldn't be found.
The family searched for the dogs and even called the Maui Humane Society to check if they were there.
At about 5 p.m., they put up missing dog fliers.
The next day, Tavares' dad did extensive searching. After talking to a neighboring farmer who heard dogs barking, he discovered the dogs caught in traps at a residence along Omaopio Road.
Brenna Tavares later visited the site after her dogs were taken away and noticed the traps.
"I am concerned that these illegal traps are set up near residences and that any unsuspecting animal or a young child (can) come in contact with such a cruel and torturous trap," she said in an email.
"I would like to make the public aware of what happened and maybe my dog's death will help prevent another's death," she said.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.