Hunting: Protecting The Community From Axis Deer

When it comes to solving the issue of overpopulating animals, hunting is by far the most commonly used method around the world. Hunting is good for the environment because the hunting community ensures that wildlife populations of game species are maintained. This requires that a diversity of natural habitats be kept intact, undisturbed, and in balance amongst the other animals. Hunters ensure that this happens. Therefore, hunting deer is imperative to the community by saving local farms, saving Hawaiʻi’s native species, and providing nutrition to our bodies.

The introduction of axis deer was brought to Hawaiʻi decades ago; the purpose of them was for recreational hunting and for food. Axis deer are not native to Hawaiʻi, they are native to India and Sri Lanka. In 1868, axis deer were introduced to Molokaʻi as a gift to King Kamehameha V; thereafter, they were introduced to Lanaʻi in 1920, and then to our home, Maui, in 1959.

Since axis deer are invasive to Hawaiʻi, they do not have natural predators. That allows them to reproduce and rapidly increase their population. They are able to easily adapt to the environment; as a result, they will explore and travel the island to find whatever food they can find because they are not picky eaters. With no natural predators, there is no way to maintain their population. Which is why hunting is a very crucial solution to overpopulating deers.

Wild axis deer have become a major problem on Maui, more towards the farmers and ranchers, where they have caused them to lose millions of dollars in destruction on their land. This issue is also affecting Hawaiʻi’s native species and ecosystems. With thousands of deer roaming the island, they trample over plants and leap over fences to reach farms and ranches. The deer take food and water from animals that ranchers have prepared for their animals. Also, eating produce that farmers have planted for their businesses and for their own family.

Conservation agencies and groups such as Maui Axis Deer Harvesting Co-Op (MADHC), Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), the county, farmers, and ranchers, have recognized this ongoing issue and formed a team to find solutions and to set a plan to manage the deer on the island. Maui County has provided a fund for MADHC to start their mission of using the non-native animal as a resource for food and using every part of the animal so that they end with zero waste. According to the Maui Axis Deer Harvesting Co-Op, every part of the animal can be utilized, “Hides can be tanned and sold, entrails donated to farmers for use as compost, bone ground into bone meal and used as a soil amendment, antlers can become jewelry and the waste meat can be made into dog food.” This method is a good way to approach the use of axis deer.

This is not a simple task, these groups come across challenges. Managing wildlife population alone is a very difficult task. Their short-term goal is to reduce the population of the deer by corralling, trapping, and hunting them. Long-term goal is to manage the population and make sure they do not get out of hand. They have access to helicopters so they are able to do aerial surveys, that allows them to get a better visual of where deer are located and estimate the number of deer there are on the island. This is an innovative method that can solve many issues with the overpopulating deer.

There are many benefits to hunting. To continue, it is beneficial to farms and ranches. Local farmer Alex Franco of the Maui Cattle Company says that deer are, “ taking a lot of the good groceries we need for our cattle.'' Cattle fences are not a good strategy for keeping deer out of pastures and farms due to the fact that deer have the ability to jump very high. There are better solutions to keep deer out of pastures, one of these things being hunting.     

16 December 2021
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