Two legislators representing Molokai say the severe public health crisis the island is facing from thousands of deer dying could have been avoided with legislation they proposed in 2019, but vow to continue to work with the community to find remedies.
Non-native axis deer are dying from starvation due to severe drought conditions, the Department of Land and Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Wildlife DOFAW staff suggested and a state veterinarian confirmed, a Dec. 30 news release said. Their carcasses are being found along highways and on private land, and DOFAW is working with landowners and agencies to excavate and bury them.
“Early on, we recognized the potential impact that this issue would have on our community,” said Senate Majority Leader J. Kalani English and Rep. Lynn DeCoite today in a news release. “That’s why in 2019, we introduced HB265 to appropriate funds to the Department of Land and Natural Resources for the management of the axis deer population and substantial reduction of these invasive species.
“Due to opposition from certain Molokaʻi community members, the bill died and no funding was appropriated,” they said.
“The inability to control and properly manage these invasive species have led to an overpopulation of deer and further degredation of our watersheds and other natural resources,” they said.
The pair say they are working closely with Gov. David Ige, Maui Mayor Mike Victorino and other state, county and community agencies to remove the carcasses, put an effective management plan in place and “get this situation under control.”
The deer, with no natural predators on Maui and Molokai, are considered by DLNR as game, and can be hunted daily, year-round with no bag limits.
DOFAW administrator David Smith said in the Dec. 30 news release, “This is a self-fulfilling prophecy of invasive, non-native deer over-populating, degrading our forested watersheds and now starving as a result.”